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On May 25, 2001, Erik Weihenmayer became the first blind person to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. In 2008 he climbed Carstensz Pyramid on the island of Papua New Guinea, completing the Seven Summits, the highest point on every continent. This accomplishment closed the circuit on a 13-year journey that had begun with his 1995 ascent of Denali. He is joined by a select company of only 150 mountaineers to have accomplished the feat.
As word spread about Erik’s remarkable achievements, the world took notice; shortly after his summit of Everest, he was honored with a Time cover story detailing his conquest of the world’s highest peak. Since then, he has authored multiple books, including his memoir, Touch the Top of the World. Yet for those who had long known him, his propensity for taking on and knocking down the loftiest of challenges came as no surprise.
Even as retinoschisis began to rob him of his vision by the age of 14, Erik resisted the idea that blindness would sweep him to the sidelines of life. He established himself as a formidable wrestler in high school, representing his home state of Connecticut in the National Junior Freestyle Wrestling Championship in Iowa. As a teenager, he also discovered rock climbing and a natural dexterity for the tactile aspects of scanning the rock with his hands and feet for holds.
After graduating a double major from Boston College, Erik became a middle-school teacher and wrestling coach at Phoenix Country Day School. Yet it was atop the highest point in North America, the mountain known in the native Inuit language as Denali, where his quest for adventure began to take shape. Erik’s triumphs over some of the world’s most formidable mountains were fueling a growing aspiration to take the lessons he learned in the mountains to help others shatter barriers in their lives.
To advance this idea, Erik co-founded not merely an organization, but rather a movement called No Barriers. The mission is to help people with challenges, all of us to some extent, to turn into the storm of life, face barriers head on, embrace a pioneering and innovative spirit and team up with great people to live rich in meaning and purpose. The motto is “What’s Within You Is Stronger Than What’s In Your Way.” To this aim, Erik continues to challenge himself to live a No Barriers Life and in September 2014 he kayaked the entire 277-miles of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.
Erik is one of the most inspiring, engaging, and sought after speakers in the world. His presentations engage and inspire audiences by capturing lessons from his life and adventures around the world. Erik’s essential messaging focuses on harnessing the power of adversity, developing a guiding vision and building a strong “rope-team.” Erik sees every new challenge as an opportunity to problem solve, strategize and pioneer new ways forward.
“I think this is the best time in history, the most precious time in history to be a pioneer, to reach out, to seize hold of adversity and challenges we face, to harness energy not only to transform our own lives, but to elevate the world around us.”
– Erik Weihenmayer
Through Erik’s groundbreaking adventures around the world, he has explored and defined what it means to live a No Barriers Life, describing it as a map we build to navigate and to pursue a life that matters. Central to this journey is a mindset to continually challenge ourselves to grow and evolve – in Erik’s words, to “climb” while others “camp.”
Erik’s inspirational speaking career has taken him around the world from Hong Kong to Switzerland, from Thailand to the 2005 APEC Summit in Chile. Erik has shared the speaking platform with notables like:
- George W. Bush
- Al Gore
- Tony Blair
- Colin Powell
- General Norman Schwarzkopf
- Rudy Giuliani
- Tom Peters
- Marcus Buckingham
- Stephen Covey
- The No Barriers Life
As a blind adventurer who has climbed Mt. Everest and kayaked the Grand Canyon, Erik understands better than most that barriers are real, not merely perceived, and that that obstacles encountered can either stop us in our tracks, or we can figure out a way to harness them and propel ourselves to new places that we would never get to in any other way. Erik calls this “alchemy,” the process of turning lead into gold. “With an alchemist,” he says, ” you can throw them in the midst of a fierce competitive environment, strip away their resources, throw roadblocks in front of them, and they’ll still find a way to win – not despite adversity, but because of it.”
Erik will take audiences on a journey to discover the tools and insights to develop what he calls the “No Barriers Mindset,” what it takes for individuals, teams, and organizations to turn into the storm, convert challenges into greatness, and reach for nearly impossible goals.