Dear Why Team member,
I hope you are as excited about this New Year as I am. And I hope this week’s post will fuel you.
The beginning of a new year brings about thoughts of new resolution(s).
Have you set any? How are you transforming yourself this year? What fuels your energy and passion, and what barriers limit you? Consider those resolutions Now.
On January 7th, I had the great privilege to hear the most powerful presentation of my life. Throughout most of the presentation, I, and most everyone around me, was overcome with emotion, not an emotion of sadness, but rather an emotion of inspiration; it was just an overwhelming experience, and I am excited to share it with you in this week’s Why Team Weekly.
The speaker’s bio included a long list of incredible accomplishments, including the summiting of Mt. Everest and the kayaking of the incredibly dangerous Colorado River, and as we took in all of these impressive accomplishments, it was then conveyed that he is blind. The room went pitch-silent; then, he walked out on stage with assistance. If you ever have an opportunity to hear this man speak, please do so, at the very least, I recommend you read his books; his most recent being appropriately titled NO BARRIERS. I believe it is people like Erik Weihenmayer, who are placed on this earth, as reminders to us that life is so incredibly precious and exciting, but mostly for those that manage to get beyond their fears and anxieties to experience it, no matter the barriers. In fact, the greater the barrier, the greater the experience.
Worry and Anxiety will always raise its head and try to block us, but it’s how we train ourselves to respond to life that determines in Erik’s words whether we stay in the tent where it’s believed to be safe or come out to climb, embracing, actually moving toward the unpredictable, the unknown. How might we address the uncertainty of life with more courage? Erik is a living example.
Erik spoke freely of his fears and the conversations he has with himself, in his head, all the thoughts that any rational person would have when they considered the danger combined with the brutal fact of blindness. He shared how he got beyond the barriers with commitment, faith, love, and support from friends.
The parts of his message that stand out particularly for me, one being the words said to him by his friend after he had summitted Mount Everest, the first blind man ever to do so. His friend touched his back and said, “don’t let this be your greatest accomplishment.”
Dear members of the Why Team, if we are to live our best life ever, it is a life looking forward more-so than looking backward. It’s a life ahead, filled with challenges and opportunities for growth, it’s into the unknown that we uncover our possibilities and those who encourage us to move into that unknown are our advocates for an abundant life; they encourage, give us courage, help us to overcome our fears and anxieties and they are a gift among us. In Erik‘s presentation, there was a moment in a particular challenge that required him and his friend to jump off a rocky ledge into water 30 feet below, together, at the same time. Now, let me remind you, he is blind, the video clip he showed is amazing as he’s feeling the rock with his hands, right next to his friend, he and his friend both anxious about what they’re about to do and holding hands, wasting no time and jumping together. Imagine if you were to walk to a ledge, with your eyes closed, and be asked to jump into the open air with no vision of what you were jumping into - it could only be done with immense courage and faith, also made possible by holding the hand of a friend. Consider the opportunities you have in this New Year to hold a friend’s hand as they seek to jump into their exciting future - and who’s hand you might hold to help you make your leaps.
I had a chance to speak with Erik after his talk and even got, with his permission, a little bit of video of our conversation. You can experience his sense of humor saying the reason I’m not looking into the camera is because I’m blind, not intoxicated. (Well, maybe not on alcohol, but no doubt on life)
It was a privilege to have those moments with him and share with him how much his life and his message impacted and encouraged me. I encouraged him to continue-on with his example for others - I shared with him my particular love for his comments around alchemy; that life is filled with lead that oftentimes is heaped heavy on our heads. His suggestion was that, like the alchemist, why not use that energy to move forward, turning that lead into gold. And if this is true, why not move forward into that unknown more passionately to acquire more lead to work into gold?! Why sit back and wait for life to happen to us, cowering in our tents, why not get out and climb, for more opportunities to make Gold; energy to create something more special for ourselves and for others.
Paraphrasing Erik, we can get to a point in our lives where we camp out comfortably, when we’ve reached a certain challenging height through effort, and then we camp out. If we stay in a camp too long, it can become more of a prison than just a safe place - limiting our possibilities - life becomes more reflection on the past than excitement for the future. Erik‘s invitation is to get out of our tent. The no-barriers-mindset is an understanding that what is within us is stronger than what is in our way.
In this exciting New Year, consider exploring all the more where you might be living a tent life and who’s hand you might take to adventure out. How does this measure up to your resolutions? Not too late to adjust. We are all far more capable than we know, embracing more challenge helps us grow. Thank you, Erik, for your example, and thank you to all the members of the Why Team; together we are better.
Here is to 2020.
Our Best Year Ever!
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