LAS VEGAS — With a strong belief in an underlying vision — and the help of committed teammates — adversity needn't be the enemy of greatness. Rather, it can be the pathway to it.
So said Erik Weihenmayer, a blind athlete whose pursuit of mountain climbing's “Seven Summits” and success in other adventure sports provide an example of the ability to transcend perceived limitations in business and personal life. Weihenmayer's inspiring talk highlighted the opening general session of FMI Show this month.
Weihenmayer told of how going blind as a young teenager frightened him into believing he couldn't make a difference in the world. But he gained inspiration from the example of a runner who lost a leg to cancer but ran across Canada with a prosthetic leg and soon was pursuing the sport of rock climbing.
“Blindness was like a storm that descended upon me with such force and such viciousness. I heard laughter in the school cafeteria that I wanted to be a part of but that passed me by,” he said. “I was afraid I'd be swept to the sidelines, that I'd be forgotten, that my life would be meaningless.”
Using sometimes harrowing footage from numerous climbs including a successful summit of Mount Everest, Weihenmayer and his climbing teammates — some of whom also suffered disabilities — demonstrated how a pioneering spirit and commitment to a shared vision helped them hang onto life's jagged edges.
“What's more important than any one goal is what I call vision — not what you want to do or achieve in your life, more of an internal vision, a vision of how you see yourself living your life, impacting your world, serving people,” he said. “What your legacy will be. I think sometimes we focus on a long list of goals and we get isolated and fragmented. We need to continually reconnect with a vision that gives your goals purpose and power.”
Weihenmayer said he envisions himself not as a daredevil but a “pioneer” in the tradition of Sir Edmund Hillary.
“I don't see myself as a crazy blind guy,” he said. “I'm not some blind Evel Knievel getting shot out of a rocketship across the Grand Canyon. I think blind is fine. Blind and stupid? That's fatal.”