What seems impossible to you? What makes you think, “I’d never be able to do that”? Erik Weihenmayer wants you to reconsider: you are more capable than you think. We all are.
Born with a degenerative eye disease, his parents did what they could to help him preserve his eyesight, which sometimes meant keeping him from doing the things he wanted to do. Once he lost his vision completely, though, the strangest thing happened. He became completely free to do anything he wanted.
Now a world-class climber, Erik is one of only 200 people to have scaled the Seven Summits, the highest mountains on the seven continents. He was the first sightless person to reach the top of Mount Everest. He led six blind Tibetan teenagers to the top of the 23,000-foot-high Lhakpa Ri peak, on the north side of Mount Everest, in the Himalayan mountains. And you’ll have a chance to hear Erik speak at Fusion this year in Las Vegas. He’s the keynote speaker on Friday, February 18th.
For Erik, the idea of climbing a mountain came about after rock climbing with a friend in Arizona. They were both school teachers at the time and would head out to the mountains on the weekend, just to get away. On this particular climb, when they got to the top, his friend thought they should try something bigger. Why not climb Alaska’s Mount McKinley? Neither had done more than climb a rock face in the desert. The very idea of climbing a 20,000 foot mountain covered in snow and ice seemed a little crazy. Mountain climbing for sighted people was challenging enough, but for the unsighted? Still, it was an idea that neither could shake. It seemed big. It seemed challenging. It seemed really exciting.
Breaking down barriers is one of the things that Erik knows best. He believes that “life is an ongoing, never-ending process of reaching into the darkness when we don't know what we will find. We're constantly reaching towards immense possibilities; they may be unseen yet they are sensed, while most people allow the darkness to paralyze them.” Reaching for those possibilities sometimes requires the help and support of others. Wherever he’s gotten, he’s gotten there with his team, his family, and his friends. Having the right people with you along the way is paramount.
In an environment riddled with pitfalls, roping up with good people is the best chance we have. Imagine your team roped together, building upon each other's strengths, growing day by day. You know if you fall, someone will stop you. If someone else falls, you stop them; it's just automatic. People might have different responsibilities, different goals, even motives, but you link together behind one vision. The scope and power of that kind of team is unstoppable.
With the support of others who believe that he can do the impossible, he has achieved what might at first seemed too big and too challenging. Erik’s greatest success comes from the ability to shatter the idea of what’s impossible and what’s not. Watch the trailer for the documentary on Erik’s climb to Mount Everest, Farther Than the Eye Can See.
Read Erik’s books: The Adversity Advantage: Turning Everyday Struggles into Everyday Greatness and Touch the Top of the World: A Blind Man's Journey to Climb Farther than the Eye Can See: My Story Follow him on Twitter: @ErikWeihenmayer