89: Turning Pain Into Purpose: Blind Adventurer Erik Weihenmayer on Kayaking the Grand Canyon, Climbing Everest and Building No Barriers

"My father had been like a broom, constantly sweeping me out into the world, and my mother was like the dustpan gathering up the shattered pieces and rebuilding me, only to have my father sweep me out again."
—Eric Weihenmayer, No Barriers: A Blind Man’s Journey to Kayak the Grand Canyon

This week's guest, Erik Weihenmayer, needs no introduction beyond his incredible life story and mission, and I cannot wait for you to meet him. Erik is an adventurer, author, activist and motivational speaker, who has also become a celebrated and accomplished athlete despite losing his vision at the age of 13. 

He was the first blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest, on May 25, 2001, and completed the Seven Summits the following year, joining 150 mountaineers at the time who had accomplished that feat, but as the only climber who was blind. In 2005, he co-founded No Barriers, a nonprofit organization with the tagline, “What’s within you is stronger than what’s in your way.” The organization helps others with diverse backgrounds and abilities attack challenges head on, problem solve, build winning teams, and serve others. In September 2014, Erik and blinded Navy veteran, Lonnie Bedwell, kayaked the entire 277-miles of the Grand Canyon, considered one of the most formidable whitewater venues in the world.

That’s the focus of his recent book, No Barriers: A Blind Man’s Journey to Kayak the Grand Canyon. In the foreword, Bob Woodruff said, “Erik is simply one of the most remarkable men I have ever met.” I agree, and not just for what he has accomplished, but for who he is—full of heart, soul and inspiring hustle. This episode is one you won't want to miss. 

Check out full show notes from this episode with links to resources mentioned at PivotMethod.com/podcast/no-barriers

Topics We Cover

  • A mentor's advice "Not to let Everest be the greatest thing you've ever done"

  • How he councils others who are physically challenged to get past blame, shame, why me's and actual barriers

  • Mourning the life one thought and what it means to create a new one

  • Why he founded No Barriers and why it's so important to him to surpass perceived boundaries and ones that others often unintentionally project

  • The alchemy of adversity: how to turn pain into purpose

  • On the power of teamwork: his climb with a three-man self-described "gimp" team: one blind man, one paraplegic, and one man with prosthetic legs

  • Kayaking the Grand Canyon: navigating the balance between chaos, control and letting go

  • And much, much more . . .

Podcast: Blind Adventurer Erik Weihenmayer: Beyond Climbing Everest and Kayaking the Grand Canyon Toward No Barriers and Turning Pain Into Purpose

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