Gratitude · In Life · Motivation · Thoughtful Thursday

Blind Inspiration: Lessons We Can All Learn From Erik Weihenmayer

In the past few weeks I have encountered multiple people & situations that have caused me to question exactly how I am living this life. Am I just floating along or am I setting goals to grow & really working to achieve them?

As many of you know, I am a high school History teacher. Most days in my classes I show CNN Student News. It’s a great resource for students to get exposure to current events, how they relate to history, some fun stories, & some that are incredibly inspiring. This “character study,” as CNN Student News calls it, was one such story.

Erik Weihenmayer– fully blind since high school, successfully climbed Mt. Everest in 2001, successfully solo-kayaked 277 miles of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in 2014.

When I heard his story I stopped everything I was doing just to watch & listen. I have two functioning eyes in my skull and yet I’ve never thought myself capable of doing such incredible things. He said something in the interview with CNN that really struck me- he wasn’t doing it to show the world blind people were capable of these things, he called that line of thinking “shallow.” He was doing it for himself & the sake of fully living. He wasn’t going to let that one handicap stop him from doing whatever he wanted to do. When he decided to climb Everest in 2001, people told him he shouldn’t or couldn’t do it…he did it. In 2014, he and a team kayaked 277 miles of the Colorado River. He was successful.

I don’t know about you, but I want to live life like that. So often we say we want to, but then we sit around and don’t do anything about it. So, looking at his story, here are 4 things we need to do if we want to reach the goals we set for ourselves.

To be successful you have to:

  1. Set high goals for yourself then take a leap of faith & jump in.
    Just like Erik, he set his goals the highest & hardest they could be- climbing Mt. Everest, solo-kayaking the Colorado River. He set his goals high. If he tried & failed, at least he attempted it. What are your goals? What is your bucket list?
  2. Have confidence in yourself & what you want achieve. Don’t let anyone or anything stop you.
    Whatever goals you set for yourself, have confidence that you can reach them. If you start out saying, “Man…I don’t think I can do this…” then you probably won’t. It is important to recognize limitations, but don’t let those stop you. Think outside of the box. Find constructive, productive ways to make your goals work. Don’t let fear stop you, either. If Erik had let fear stop him, he would’ve turned & walked away when the Himalayan experts told him Everest was no place for a blind man.
  3. Work hard.
    Pointing back to step #1, you can’t stop there- in order to achieve the goals you set you have to make a clear & realistic plan to reach them & then you have to ACT on it! Don’t expect to just be able to jump in & be successful the first time. It takes hard work, failures, & mistakes in order to learn, grow, & be successful. Even Erik practiced at the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, NC. He knew that not practicing & preparing would be the same as failing from the start.
  4. Surround yourself with people you can trust to challenge, guide, & encourage you along the way.
    Being successful is not easy & it is never done totally on your own. Yes, you probably do most of the leg work, but there are countless people along the way that drop golden nuggets of encouragement or become a boulder of support in times of struggle. Find those people that will encourage you, make you think, challenge you, but also safely guide you through. Just like Erik- yes, he was the only physical person in his kayak, but his guide, following right behind, was in his ear giving directions the whole time. He had to rely on his guide’s eyes & instincts in order to make it through. We often need that, too. We need the people who see the trouble or bumps ahead of us…or the ones we’re in the middle of. They guide us through or around them…but only if we let them.

Want to know more about Erik Weihenmayer? Check out the non-profit organization he’s a part of, encouraging young people to break the barriers they have before them:
No Barriers USA

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