Vision Beyond Eyesight with Erik Weihenmayer

Despite going blind at fourteen, Erik Weihenmeyer has been living an adventurous life and has held on to his vision beyond eyesight. He is the first blind person to ever reach the summit of Mount Everest and at age 39, he completed his quest to climb all seven summits. He’s spoken on several platforms and has written three books. His latest book, No Barriers, is an authentic and inspiring story about his struggles to achieving what he has and how to live with no barriers. Extending his vision to more people, he founded an organization of the same name, No Barriers, which is a movement and an organization to help people break through the barriers in their lives.

TTL 169 | No Barriers

We’ve got Erik Weihenmayer on the show. He is the first blind person to ever reach the summit of Mount Everest. After that, he reached the summit of the highest peaks on each of the seven continents, as well as did some kayaking on the Colorado River. What this guy has done is amazing. He’s got a book called No Barriers. You’ve probably seen him on Oprah. He’s spoken on platforms with Secretary Colin Powell, Vice President Al Gore, Henry Kissinger, Prime Minister Tony Blair, Tom Peters, Stephen Covey. I’m looking forward to hearing about his 277-mile length kayaking trip on the Grand Canyon.

Listen to the podcast here:

Vision Beyond Eyesight with Erik Weihenmayer

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No Barriers: A Blind Man’s Journey to Kayak the Grand Canyon

I am with Erik Weihenmayer, who’s an adventurer, author, film maker, and speaker. Despite going blind at age fourteen, he had the privilege of living an adventurous life. On May 25th, 2001, he became the only blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest. At age 39, he reached the top of Carstensz pyramid, completing his quest to climb all seven summits, the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. Time Magazine said, “There’s no way to put what Erik has done into perspective because no one’s ever done anything like it.” It’s a unique achievement. One of the truest sense is it pushes the limits of what man is capable of. He is the author of Touch the Top of the World, The Adversity Advantage, and No Barriers. It’s nice to have you here, Erik.

Thank you.

I had met Erik at a rock climbing gym here in Phoenix. You used to live here.

I lived there for four years. I loved it there. I taught at a beautiful school called the Phoenix Country Day School, and had a great life in Phoenix. I wanted to get a little closer to the mountains though, and I wanted to make a life in the mountains, so I decided to move to Colorado. My fiancée at the time moved with me, and she said, “I’m not moving in with you, you got to marry me.” I married her and then we moved to Colorado. Now the Rockies are my playground and I’ve been making a life in the mountains and the rivers for the last twenty years. It’s been awesome.

When I saw you climb, it reminded me of why I like rock climbing so much because it’s such a strategic thing. It isn’t about your eyes when you are rock climbing, it’s about adjusting and navigating. I could see why you’re drawn to it, because it is strategic to me. Do you feel like that?

You put your finger on it perfectly. It’s so meditative because you get into this fluid feel as you’re climbing where you’re focused, but not being able to see the hold. I’m hanging off of a hold, trying to reach up and find and feel the next hold, scanning my hand across the face, and then I find something and maybe I can work with that. Then you are problem solving your way up another few inches, from point A to point B to point C, like some puzzle that you’re unlocking in the rock. To me, it’s the most engaging thing I’ve ever done.

I’ve read your book and I was fascinated in your story. Can you give a background of how you lost your sight and how you got interested in climbing?

I went blind from this rare eye disease called retinoschisis. I was born legally blind where I couldn’t see very well, but over middle school it got worse and worse to the point where I couldn’t see to even take a step. I went totally blind before my freshman year in high school. I can’t overstate how hard that was, but eventually you figure out how to climb your way out. There’s hours of conversation in that piece of how do you climb yourself out of the spots where you’re stuck, but eventually I did. I was a teacher in Phoenix and a substitute teacher named Sam Bridgham knew I was into climbing.

He said, “We should go out and climb together.” We started climbing on the weekends, and I got into Arizona Mountaineering Club. Sam said, “We should try something bigger. How about Denali?” I was like, “That’s exciting.” A year and a half later, after training all over the place including Mount Humphreys Peak, we reached the summit of Denali. It was 1995, and it turned out it was Helen Keller’s birthday when we stood on top of Denali, the tallest peak in North America. That launched me into this thought that, “I could keep climbing and keep adventuring.”

My father was born legally blind. He had 2% vision. It impacted me to hear your story because I could imagine the things. My father was on the rowing team, he played football, and I’ve seen him play golf. He didn’t let it hold him back, and he would love to have heard your story. Were you always the person that was curious to do different things or do you think that this pushed you into that thinking? Were you curious when you still had some sight to go out and do these wild adventures?

When I went blind, I was way more afraid of getting shoved to the sidelines and just being a bystander, listening to my life go by with all the excitement happening out there, and I’m sitting inside this self-induced prison. That was the scariest thing I could ever imagine. I always wanted to be out there. I wanted to be in the thick of things. When I was a kid, I always did dumb things. I’d ride around on a mini bike with my friend. I could barely see out of one eye. I’d be the one running through the woods knocking off of tree branches and jumping off roots. BB gun wars in the nature preserve near my house. I always had a spark for fun and to be out there with my friends. When you go blind, you don’t lose any of that. What you lose is the ability to do it. The question becomes, “How am I going to do all these things that I want to do?”

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Blindness or any disability, you have to adapt to a whole new array of situations and learn a whole bunch of new tools.

You mentioned rock climbing being about adapting. There’s a lot of adapting. You adapt to a new situation, and humans are pretty resilient. Blindness or any disability, you have to adapt to a whole new array of situations and learn a whole bunch of new tools. It gets your mindset, so that when you bounce against those brick walls, which is going to happen a lot, those brick walls don’t mean the end. They have to become an energy that propels you forward in interesting ways.

I have had a couple of guests on my show that lost their sight tight. Tanner Gers was on, he had a car accident where a tree went through his eyes and he immediately couldn’t see. I had Isaac Lidsky who lost it about the same timeframe that you did, and he knew it was coming. Do you think it makes it harder to lose it overnight? Is it always on your mind that you’re going to lose it as soon as you hear it about that? Did you convince yourself that maybe it won’t happen?

The brain is so powerful. I ignored it. When I was going blind, I would say I didn’t eat enough breakfast, or the sun’s in my eyes. Your brain makes up all kinds of excuses. I could completely avoid it and deny it. When it happened, it’s impossible to deny because I can’t take a step. It’s like somebody hit you in the head with a baseball bat. Devastated is an understatement. Mine happened over time, over a matter of three years. Every day, I was waking up to a new reality. I’d see less each day. You start to fear, “Is my life going to be a constant series of losses? What else will I lose?”When I finally went totally blind as a bat, it was a release in a weird way because I can’t lose anything more in that department. I’m now at a stable place, and I can work out of this. I started wrestling, and that’s when I got thrown in front of this group. They were taking us out to do different recreational things like skiing and sailing. One week, they took us rock climbing, and that’s it for me. I love this sport.

My dad used to describe being blind to me as trying to look out of your knee. It’s not black. It’s nothing. Do you see black or nothing?

I don’t see the way I used to see, the colors and shapes and images all inside my brain because my hearing is still there and my sense of smell and sense of touch. When I’m touching and smelling and I’m hearing, I’m getting information. The visual cortex in my brain is putting together images of what that environment looks like. Very visually, even though I’m blind.

You have this technology that has a camera that takes an image and it sends a microprocessor image to your tongue so that you can experience things that way. That was a cool idea to me, and I’m interested in the different technology that you’ve found to make you have more vivid experiences.  

That’s one of them. I wrote about it in No Barriers. It was cool to experiment and pioneer these new ideas. One of them is a thing called the BrainPort, and it’s invented by a company called Wicab. They’re amazing because they’re trying to develop technologies that exists out there in the market. It’s a camera with a microprocessor that translates that video image to a plate that I wear on my tongue with hundreds of different little pixels, they’re vibrating pixel contactors. My tongue is feeling what the camera is seeing, and I’ve used it to climb mountains, to play tic-tac-toe and cards with my kids.

I taught my son to read by cue cards with the words on them, so I could tell whether he was right or wrong. It’s a hard technology to use because you have to trace everything with your tongue, but it’s cool to be able to point this camera, which is replacing the eyes, towards an object or towards a scene and be able to decipher it through these vibrating lines and shapes and things on my tongue. Your brain does the rest. I could see before, so my brain knows what to do, how to translate that back into visual imagery.

Have your family tried it?

If a sighted person tried it, they’d laugh because you see millions and millions of pixels, the best high-definition camera that evolution could create. Instead of millions and millions of pixels, I’m getting 500 to 600 pixels. It’s rudimentary shapes and images.

You also wrote about AIRA, the one that works with Google Glass?

AIRA is a cool technology for the blind. I love these innovative ideas that can impact people’s lives. It’s a high tech, low tech thing where it’s Google Glasses. They could be anywhere in the world, people who want to work part time or whatever they want to do and, and they’ll look through the glass and through the camera. You can point them at your clothes and say, “Do these match? Help me get my money organized, help me read this letter, or help me order a new book on Audible.com, or help me get to the bathroom in the airport or the nearest Starbucks.” The person can see you through the camera, but they can also see through the GPS that they’re tracking you on. They can look at the map at the mall and help you get wherever you need to go. I’ve got hideously lost in the mall a couple months ago. I turned on the camera, I called up the agent, and he navigated me right to my appointment. I was a little bit late, but at least I got there.

My dad never went anywhere without somebody with him. You’re much more independent. How about the new self-driving cars? How excited are you about that?

I’m excited about those, but who knows how far they are away. I did sit in the back of a blind-driven car. It was created by the National Federation of the Blind. They have a research division, it’s really cool work that they do. The National Federation of the Blind had this car and it was packed with a massive computer power in the back. The cameras on the car would be able to decipher obstacles and all the barriers that you don’t want to run into. It would give information to the blind driver. He would wear a pair of gloves, and it would buzz on his right hand to turn right or buzz on his left hand to turn left or buzz on his back to break or on his legs to accelerate. It was all tactile information being translated from the visual area.

It’s almost the tech version of what they did with you when you were rafting. Aren’t they guiding you with words?

That’s the way I kayak. I have this radio communication system that communicates in relative real time. My team is behind me, a guide is behind me, and he’s yelling out directions, “Hard left, hard right, charge,” which means charge into that rapid because you’re about to get hammered by huge wave. Just very simple commands, and I’m trying to react and respond to all this chaos happening around me. The radios in my ears are incredible because my guide and I may be separated by twenty-foot waves, so you got to be able to hear in those rapids.

It had to be in your mind of how easy it would be to get hurt. I’m sure you’re hard to ensure. Did you have any problems with that?

I was terrified. Kayaking was way harder and scarier than climbing Everest because you’re on a moving world. The world is moving underneath you, and not in a smooth way but in insane ways that are knocking you left and right, and you’re flying into holes that are like washing machines that suck you down and you got to wait to be able to roll back out of them. Sometimes you can’t roll out of them, you got to swim out of them. I’ve smashed into rocks. I’ve done 360’s, hitting rocks going downward and getting knocked over, and then your helmet’s banging off of underwater rocks under the surface and your hands are getting shredded. Kayaking was terrifying, but it was also incredible to understand rivers too. These beautiful rivers that have the whole language and landscape of their own.

As a blind person, it’s hard to understand those environments, unless you put yourself in the middle of it and really understand what that map looks like, and the beauty of the river as the rapid ends and it’s calm and you can hear the canyon walls above you. Blind people click and use echolocation to be able to hear things. You can hear the canyon walls rising up sometimes a mile higher than you. You can touch these rocks in the Grand Canyon that are billions of years old, you’re in the basement of the earth, you’re touching something that was near the earth’s beginning. It’s incredible whether you can see it or not.

I did that river rafting from a Lees Ferry that ends right at Bright Angel and we hiked the ten miles out of the canyon, but you went for a long time. Yours was eight hours a day for how many days?

We kayaked about twenty days. We kayaked from Lees Ferry to the very bottom, right above Lake Mead. 277 miles. It was the adventure of a lifetime. I had some amazing guys, this guy Harlan Taney, who had kayaked the Grand Canyon more than a hundred times and knew it like the back of his hand. He could guide me through every rapid, he had the map of the river locked in his brain. It was like going with the River Yoda.

You don’t think of until you’re down there how cold it is. It is really cold all year. Weren’t you freezing?

The water’s cold. The air is pretty warm. The water starts up at Lees Ferry in the 40s. It’s insanely cold water. You wear a dry suit or a dry top at least, and you’re fighting heat and cold off the same time.

I can envision what you had to deal with, that’s a serious trip you took. I saw it took six years for you to train for this.

I trained for six years. I wanted to quit a lot of times because you get overwhelmed. I founded an organization called No Barriers, which is a movement and an organization to help people break through barriers in their lives. Part of it is working with injured vets who are coming back from the different conflicts and have gotten hurt physically, emotionally, and are trying to put the pieces of their lives back together and figure out how to move forward and create some purpose again in their lives. I got traumatized a few times in those rapids, where I felt like sick and overwhelmed. I definitely had some trauma along the way. It made me relate well in a way to the people that we work with at No Barriers, who have gotten hurt, have had some trauma. You get a blockage in your brain, in your soul even, like a vibration that you can’t get past. It gave me a lot of connection with the work that I’m pursuing now.

That’s a source of empathy, and that’s a huge part of emotional intelligence. Every time I read about you, it’s so fascinating that you keep going after adventure after adventure to these different challenges in your life. Would you have a bucket list? Do you have something else?  

I do have a tick list. I leave for the desert. I’m going to bike across the white rim trail in a hundred miles, and, climb these beautiful desert towers. We’re doing six towers in six days, and then I head to a skiing and mountaineering trip. In June, I’m heading over to Nepal with the youth group. We have a group of kids with all kinds of challenges, from blindness and deafness to emotional challenges, and we will be trekking across the Mustang region of Nepal. Then Canada climbing. I’m going back to Ama Dablam in Himalaya, which I failed at eighteen years ago, so I’ll try that again with my team.

It’s a tick list a mile long, but I’m not looking for the next thing. Looking for the next thing becomes shallow. I want to experience life, I want to live life with my friends, but I’m not looking for the next thing because to me, it has a negative connotation. It’s like you’re lost, and you’re thinking the next thing will save you. Standing on top of the mountain doesn’t make you necessarily in itself a better or wiser person.

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Standing on top of the mountain doesn’t make you necessarily in itself a better or wiser person.

The key for me has been coming down the mountain and trying to take what I’ve learned and the struggles that I’ve had that I’ve worked my way through and the things that I’ve figured it out, and bring them down the mountain and use them in your normal life with your family, with your community, and with the endeavors that you have in the flat land. That’s the way the Sherpa’s talk about mountains. They say, “You’re not really done with the mountain until you come down into the deep valleys where human beings live, where the human beings are, and to find your purpose and to bring that message down the mountain.” I have come to believe that that’s the important part. Trying to figure out how to connect the different pieces of your lives, so that it’s more about discovery than it is about records.

You did talk about pivotal moments and barriers that pop up and getting stuck. You mentioned before you got a little freaked out when you were in the rapid certain times. You talked about alchemy in a process that you teach people in your programs. What do you talk about in those programs? What do you offer?

We did transformative experiences, and we work with vets, kids with physical challenges, but also invisible challenges. A lot of the challenges that people experience are invisible like emotional things such as fear, doubt, anxiety, and self-esteem. Kids in the foster care system, kids who have lost parents to war, kids whose biggest challenge is they have never been more than five miles from their house. These are major barriers, and so we work with all kinds of people and we take them on a journey. Through that journey, we work on the No Barriers Life mindset. We have a curriculum and it’s not rocket science or anything, but it’s looking at the process of growth and change and what those universal pieces look like along that path.

What are those way points along the way that tell us that we’re moving in the right direction? We stop at each of those way points, and we’d try to reflect on our lives. Hopefully, by the end of that experience, people have some new thoughts and ideas about where they want to go. We have a social worker who follows them as they take their No Barriers Pledge. What are you going to do with this experience, and how are you going to use it to elevate yourself and the world? We try to track and follow that person and keep them involved, so that they can realize that there’s no barriers life.

People have different fears. Some people’s biggest fears are public speaking or being on television. You’re on Oprah, you’re on Larry King, and you’re on all these shows. Did any of that give you a butterflies? What makes you have a nerve wracking experience? Is there anything that sends you over the cliff?

I’m a normal person. I was packing for a couple of trips, and I had a total meltdown because I couldn’t find a certain shirt. I was pounding my fist on the ground railing about how unfair life is. We all have these moments, and it doesn’t have to be on the mountain. Sometimes, we’re more equipped to deal with the big things, like going blind, than we are with a million little mosquitoes attacking us in our daily lives and we don’t even know how to protect ourselves. I struggle like everyone. In The Adversity Advantage, which is my second book, the faster you pick yourself up and you figure out how you’re going to move forward, the better off you are. Not better off like happiness, but you live longer. Your health is better, your relationships are better, and you’re more innovative. Being able to eventually move forward with an open heart is like a gift to your life.

How do people handle these things when you’re dealing with them on a day in and day out basis? Is it something that you deal with when you’re helping these people?

It’s like this flood of hope, sorrow, empathy, and connection. We’ve had people come and present in our No Barriers events. We had a guy who couldn’t move; he was like Stephen Hawkins. He couldn’t move, but he can blink, and he could communicate on a computer. He wrote out a whole speech just by blinking. He talked about how he was a person inside this body, inside the shell that was broken. He couldn’t move, and people walk by him every day and thought he was nothing, but he was saying there’s a person inside of here with hopes and dreams. He wanted to go to school, but he was so terrified, but he was able to go through college in this way.

One time, we had a guy named Henry Evans. He was also immobile, and he communicated in the same way, but he had created a drone, like a little robot, like an avatar, that his wife would bring around in a suitcase. He would set up the robot and it would sit on her shoulder and he could see through the camera and he could communicate through the camera. He was restricted to his room and his bed, but he could travel the world through this robot. He was exploring with drones and how to create a drone where he could see and navigate with his eyes, so that he could fly through the sky and maybe a drone that could navigate through the oceans. It’s incredible hope, yet at the same time this deep connection with other human beings and people’s struggles.

It’s unfathomable what that would be like to go through that. We all look at what we have and you think it could be much more challenging. You have an inspirational message. Did you get married on Kilimanjaro?

My wife and I got married a halfway up the mountain. Our summit day was our honeymoon. It was a long, hard day. My wife got a great honeymoon of trekking for twelve hours to the summit of a mountain. She said that was an endless nightmare.

I found it very touching to see the little boy when you were on Oprah. You had really impacted his life. What happened to him?

His name is Kyle. Kyle went blind from cancer when he was a kindergartener. It devastated him in a child-like way, he was overwhelmed. He didn’t even talk. I invited him to an event where I was speaking and afterwards we talked. He was like, “You can climb, you can ride a bike, you can ski?” He couldn’t believe the things that a blind person could do. We stayed in touch, and he went on Oprah. He wrote me a beautiful letter in braille, telling me how it impacted his life. He became the President of his class, he joined this climbing team, and he was a wrestler and a good skier. When I founded No Barriers, he joined me on a trek. We trekked across the Andes, and then he went on to climb Kilimanjaro. Now, he’s out riding his tandem bike across America as part of something called RAAM and he’s just living this incredible life. He’s running and competing in IRONMANs, and I’m glad I had an impact on him.

What accomplishment are you most proud of? You’ve done some amazing things. How do you pick?

When I wrote No Barriers, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t want to give this idea that adventure was every part of my life, because adventure in itself can become shallow, so I wrote a lot about my family. One of the biggest, proudest moments for me was bringing home my son. We adopted a little boy from Nepal. After a year and a half of struggle and bureaucracy and everything going wrong, we finally were able to bring this little guy home. He’s fifteen now, and he’s a little punk because he’s a teenager, but we love him still. He brings joy and irritation.

You said that process was harder than climbing Everest, but you’re tenacious. How did you develop that trait? I’m writing a book on curiosity, so I’m fascinated by what makes people curious.

Most people are curious, and most people are adventuresome. Most people start out their lives with hope and optimism. The problem is that along the way, things happen. They get beat down or something happens when they try something, and they get hurt so bad that they absolutely never want to experience that again, so they shut down. They get jaded or they create prison bars that pour down around their brains. They just lose momentum or they don’t know if they have it in them to move and change with the world. A dozen different things happen to people, and then they’re stuck. If that person says, “I’m stuck and I want to get out of this spot,” that’s exactly the person that becomes a part of our No Barriers community.

If they have no interest in getting out of that dark spot, then there’s not a lot you can do, because that change has to come from within the person. They have to have this irritating feeling inside and like, “I’m not where I want to be in my life,” and so that negative feeling can be a good thing. Then they reach out to figure out how they’re going to pursue that, and our community can be the catalyst to that. We can’t light the fire in people, the fire has to exist a little bit. We can grow it and nurture it and put some kindling on it. We get people out into nature, into the mountains, into the rivers, and we go on an expedition.

You’ve gone out and you’ve gotten hurt. Bad things have happened, but we’re going to join an amazing team, we’re going to learn how to support each other, we’re going to do this big adventure together, and we’re going to have a summit together. Along the way, we’re going to talk about how we rebuild our lives. We sit around the fire every night and we talk about this idea of growth and change in what we call our No Barriers Life. As a result of that experience, we had people pledge something and to make some big change in their life. It’s anything from, “I want to write a book,” to, “I want to get off of painkillers,” to, “I want to start a business or non-profit.” One guy is in Puerto Rico working with the hurricane victims. We’ve had people go all around the world working disasters after No Barriers, and that’s inspiring.

How did you get involved in this? Are you a businessman at heart at? Where did this come from, this ability to run this whole thing?

I started it and worked with a bunch of volunteers. We were a bunch of dirt bags trying to figure out how to do this thing. The key was to start to grow it and get smart people on the board. We’ve got a lot of great leaders and staff members to figure out the equation of how to raise money. Now, we have 30 board members, all of them are smarter than me. All of them know how to grow things. The key was letting go of certain things of my ego, and saying, “The thing is going to be wrapped around my finger because if it is, it’ll die eventually.” It’s unsustainable, so you got to make it bigger than you while retaining the mission and the vision of what we’re trying to achieve. We’re a staff of 35, we work with almost 5,000 people a year, and we’re growing fast. We’re based out of Colorado, but we do stuff all over the world.

How do you determine who to take?

With the veterans that apply to our work, they’re on full scholarship. Because of funding, we’re only able to help one out of ten people. There’s always a greater need than there is resources available, but we do our best and we’re trying to grow as fast as we can.

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There’s always a greater need than there is resources available, but we do our best and we’re trying to grow as fast as we can.

It’s interesting that you start with nature. Why start with nature?

Nature is the best therapy that human beings to help reprogram. It helps create a sense of peace. It’s a wonderful laboratory for having some adversity and having a challenge that is self-induced. You’re trying to reach the top of a mountain together as a team, and then going through some of the same experiences that people have gone through in that hardship that they’ve experienced, but yet at the same time, they’re going through it in a different way. When you re-map the brain, you come away with some new pathways.

Did you ever read the book, Against the Medical Advice by Patterson?

It was a true story. Patterson usually writes fiction, and it was a non-fiction about a young boy that had Tourette’s. All the medical doctors he’d gone to, they gave him all these medicines and then he’d have these horrific side effects. What ended up helping him was going out into nature.

We definitely believe in that. People have done expeditions with us and said that was better than five years of therapy. Some people need therapy, and that’s wonderful, but a lot of times people may be confused. They don’t need therapy as much as they need purpose. They need to figure out what is their purpose and how are they going to find purpose in their lives. That sometimes is the best therapy.

You’ve had some people give you direction for purpose. You had the van driver kick you out of the van and how your father put paint on the ramps for you. Who has had the most impact on your purpose, and what pushed you in the right direction?

My parents, my dad for sure. Terry Fox is a great example of somebody I have never met who had a huge impact on me. He was diagnosed with cancer when he was twenty years old. He lost a leg to cancer, and then he decided he was going to run across Canada, thousands of miles of marathon a day. Terry taught me the foundation to how I try to live my life, which is you don’t have to react to things the way you’re supposed to. There’s a space that happens that you can create where freedom and choice exist. He chose to do something completely crazy, which was to run across Canada. In the process of doing that, he raised tons of money for cancer research and inspired Canada.

He’s a national hero of Canada. He died with cancer, it ultimately killed him, but his legacy has now raised close to a billion dollars of cancer research. It was all because of this decision that he made not to shrink and go up into a ball and protect himself, but to open his heart and try to live fully. People don’t have to run across Canada, but how many times do we make the choice of shrinking and protecting and defending when you’ve got to tear down that wall? You got to rip through that crust that we build up to protect ourselves, and let your light shine in the world. Even though, like Terry, cancer comes back and kills you, your life and your legacy and your impact becomes exponentially bigger than it would have been.

How do you get out of that “Why me” mentality?

It’s hard to get out of that because people get stuck in that spot where they’re looking into the past and thinking about what they used to be able to do. It’s disciplining the brain not to ask questions. I’m not going to ask myself, “What if I could see.” That doesn’t lead me anywhere. It leads me to a dead end, and leads me to pain and frustration, so you kill that. I’ve talked to people who have had big changes in their lives. They take the thing that they want to get past, and they stab it through the heart. They say goodbye, and they move forward. It’s a rebirth. It’s being a pragmatist just saying, “I’m going to have discipline. I’m going to ask the questions and think the thoughts that lead to good possibilities. The things that don’t lead to the right places, I’m going to kill.”

My dad had that mentality. He never focused on being legally blind. A lot of people would like to know more about where they could get your book and how can they find out more about your group. Can you share all your sites?  

They can go to my website, TouchTheTop.com. No Barriers is my latest book. I tried to write a book and write about a journey that would inspire people and give them ideas of what that map should look like, but for me to give people ten steps to success, I think it is fake and false. No Barriers is an authentic story of a lot of my struggles to do some of these big things, with a lot of the flailing and bleeding along the way that it takes to do some of these things. It’s a no BS story about how to live with no barriers. If you want to get involved in our organization, NoBarriersUsa.org, and you can learn all about us and our programs. We’re running our summit which is a celebration of the No Barriers life. We do it through music and art and entertainment, innovation with speakers, activities, clinics, workshops. It’s all the stuff we’ve been talking about brought into one place.

This has been inspirational, and I’ve been looking forward to having you on the show. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

My pleasure.

About Erik Weihenmayer

TTL 169 | No BarriersErik Weihenmayer is an adventurer, author, film maker, and speaker. Despite going blind at age 14, he has had the privilege of living an adventurous life. On May 25, 2001, he became the only blind person to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. At age 39, he reached the top of Carstensz Pyramid, completing his quest to climb all of the Seven Summits – the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. Time Magazine said, “There is no way to put what Erik has done in perspective because no one has ever done anything like it. It is a unique achievement, one that in the truest sense pushes the limits of what man is capable of.” He is the author of Touch the Top of the World, The Adversity Advantage, and most recently No Barriers.

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