Keynote speaker Erik Weihenmayer, the only blind climber ever to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, inspired a full house of attendees Thursday morning at IFAI Expo 2015.
After losing his sight at the age of 13, Erik Weihenmayer has become one of the world’s most famous and inspiring athletes. He has not only climbed Mt. Everest (“I didn’t think the view was that great,” he joked), but also conquered the “seven summits” in 2008, and last year kayaked the 277-mile length of the Grand Canyon with another friend. He wrote “Touch the top of the world,” and will soon complete another book, “The adversity advantage.”
His message to the crowd focused around how to live a “no barriers” life. The biggest challenge, he said, is learning to live with fear—which we all have. There are barriers everywhere in daily life, and how you deal with them marks you as a “quitter, a camper or a climber.” Most people are campers, he said, so work on being a climber. Having goals is not enough. “I love goals. What’s more important is your vision—how you see what legacy you want to leave behind you.”
Use challenges as fuel, advised Weihenmayer. There will always be a struggle, but “there’s always a way forward.” He calls strivers “alchemists” (turning lead into gold): “The world is crying out for alchemy.” He told the crowd: “You need a great team. And trust. You’re all roped together. Look around you—this is your rope team.” He also thanked the audience for their contributions to the high-performance survival gear that supported him on his climbs. (For more information, read “Not too hot, not too cold” in the August issue of Specialty Fabrics Review magazine.)
“No barriers,” he concluded as the audience rose to a standing ovation. “What’s within us is stronger than what’s in our way.”