Blindness Is No Barrier to Life's Peaks
Erik was shattered when at 14 a genetic illness left him totally blind. Soon he connected with an organization that gave him new opportunities, like rock climbing. He recalls running his hand along his bedroom wall thinking, “Who would be crazy enough to take a blind kid rock climbing?”
In 2001 Erik Weihenmayer became the first blind person to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. Since then he completed the Seven Summits. Erik’s latest book, “No Barriers,” is an inspirational story about kayaking the entire 277 miles of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Erik’s triumphs fueled his aspiration to help others shatter barriers in their lives. His motto is “What’s within you is stronger than what’s in your way.”
How Did You Start Using Your Talents?
In childhood, Erik describes himself as a “full-on kid” who loved to climb trees and jump out of them, over rocks and into leaves. He loved wrestling, as well as reading literature and writing. Coaching wrestling and sharing his love of reading led him into teaching middle school, where he could have envisioned himself staying until now. Instead, he teaches others about living a life with no barriers.
The Most Impactful Turning Point?
Erik lost his eyesight to a genetic disease at 14. Although his doctors told him it would happen, he just couldn’t believe it. He asked himself, “What does blindness mean, anyway? Does that mean the end of everything I know?” When it actually happened, Erik was shattered. Soon, he connected with a group that helped people deal with blindness. “They taught us to do activities like canoeing, sailing, riding tandem bikes. One weekend they said they were taking us rock climbing. As I ran my hand up the wall in my room, I thought, “Who would be crazy enough to take a blind kid rock climbing? I was 16 when I first went rock climbing. Sixteen years later, I was standing on top of Mount Everest.”
The Most Powerful Lesson Learned?
“Most people do not have physical handicaps or challenges, their struggles are invisible and internal. I’m not going to say my blindness was a great gift. But when tough things happen to you, you have a choice. Within adversity, there is a hidden energy. If you can tap into that energy, you can harness it and ride it forward like a storm. Adversity becomes a catalyst that can propel you to new places, often places that you couldn’t have gotten to in any other way. We call this process ‘alchemy.’”
On His Bookshelf
No Barriers: A Blind Man’s Journey to Kayak the Grand Canyon,
by Erik Wehenmayer and Buddy Levy
Adversity Quotient: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities, Paul G. Stoltz
The Adversity Advantage: Turning Everyday Struggles into Everyday Greatness, by Erik Wehenmayer and Paul Stoltz
Steps to Success from Erik Weihenmayer
1. When life comes crashing in, stop and reboot.
2. Don’t let yourself stay stuck in isolation. Reach out.
3. Find others who can help build a “rope team” around you, who can support one another.
4. Learn about the hidden inner power of adversity.
5. Remember what is within you is stronger than what is in your way.
Connecting With Erik Weihenmayer
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