Erik Weihenmayer: No Barriers
Erik Weihenmayer is one of the most sought-after keynote speakers in the world.
Despite losing his vision at age 14, he is an accomplished climber, paraglider, skier, and kayaker who never allows blindness interfere with his passion for pursuing an exhilarating and fulfilling life. Erik brings audiences a powerful message about harnessing the power of adversity as fuel for greatness, emphasizing the importance of building a strong “Rope Team,” and illuminating how to develop a “No Barriers Mindset.” Exclusively represented by Leading Authorities speakers bureau, Erik’s talks resonate with diverse audiences from graduating college students to large sales teams to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Erik’s speaking career has taken him around the globe from the 2005 APEC Summit in Chile to the 2009 Presidential Inaugural celebration in Washington, DC. Erik speaks to major companies in London, Dublin, Moscow, Berlin, Hong Kong, Beijing, and Abu Dhabi, as well as across the United States. Previously, he shared speaking platforms with luminaries such as Secretary Colin Powell, President Bill Clinton, and Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Pioneering Adventurer. In 2001, Erik Weihenmayer became the first blind person in history to reach the summit of Mount Everest. In 2008, he completed his quest to climb the Seven Summits—the highest mountain on each continent. Additionally, he has ascended dozens of major peaks, rock walls, and ice climbs around the planet including the first blind ascent of the 3,000-foot Nose of El Capitan in Yosemite and an ascent of a rarely climbed 3,000-foot frozen waterfall in Nepal. In 2003, Erik competed in Primal Quest, among the toughest adventure races in the world: 457 miles, nine days, 60,000 feet of elevation gain, and no time-outs. Averaging only two hours of sleep a night, Erik’s team was one of 42 to cross the finish line out of the 80 elite teams that started. In 2006, Erik created the Adventure Team Challenge, a first-of-its-kind adventure race in which teams of disabled and non-disabled athletes compete; his team won five years in a row. In 2010, he completed the Leadville 100 mountain bike race, with elevations all above 10,000 feet, on a tandem bike, once again becoming the first blind person to complete a world-class competition. And in 2011, Erik’s Team No Limits raced across the deserts and mountains of Morocco for a month, finishing in second place on the ABC reality show, Expedition Impossible.
In September 2014, Erik and blinded US Navy veteran, Lonnie Bedwell, kayaked the entire 277-miles of the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River, considered one of the most formidable whitewater venues in the world.
Celebrated Author. In addition to being a renowned adventurer and speaker, Erik is also the author of the book, Touch the Top of the World, which has been published in 12 languages. The book was made into an A&E movie and released on DVD by Sony. Erik’s second book, The Adversity Advantage: Turning Everyday Struggles Into Everyday Greatness, shares hard-earned lessons and practical advice for using adversity as fuel for growth and innovation. His latest book, No Barriers: A Blind Man's Journey to Kayak the Grand Canyon, was released in February 2017.
Recognition, Media, & Films. Erik’s adventures have earned him dozens of awards including an ESPY, Nike’s Casey Martin Award, and the Helen Keller Lifetime Achievement Award. He is also a frequent television guest who has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, Oprah, Good Morning America, Nightline, and the Tonight Show. He was featured on the cover of TIME magazine, among others, and has also carried torches for both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games.
Farther Than the Eye Can See, the documentary of his Everest ascent, is ranked by Men’s Journal as one of the top 20 adventure films of all time. The film won first prize at 21 international film festivals and was nominated for two Emmy awards. In 2004, Erik and six Everest team members trained a group of blind Tibetan students and then led them to 21,500 feet on the north side of Everest. Blindsight, the documentary of the ascent, won People’s Choice Awards at the Los Angeles, London, and Berlin Film Festivals, and was released in theaters in 2007 to major accolades from film critics. Erik has been featured in the 2012 award-winning film High Ground, and most recently the 2019 award-winning and compelling film The Weight of Water.
Humanitarian Outreach. In 2005, Erik co-founded No Barriers USA, a non-profit organization that helps people of diverse abilities develop a No Barriers Mindset – to attack challenges head on, problem solve, build winning teams, and serve others. The signature event is the annual No Barriers Summit, bringing together technology, innovation, and adventure to engage attendees to tap into the human spirit, break through personal barriers, and create community and global breakthroughs.
In 2010, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their Everest climb, Erik and his team created No Barriers Warriors, a No Barriers program, to help veterans reclaim their lives by leading and serving again.
The "No Barriers" Life. Through Erik’s ground-breaking 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 describes the key components for shattering barriers and pioneering possibilities, which start with a “reach into the darkness” and a powerful vision to guide us through the storm. It takes building a great “rope team” that shares our vision and makes us stronger and relentlessly innovating new systems and approaches along the way. And it takes the drive to lead and elevate others.
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.
Shattering Expectations. Erik Weihenmayer inspires audiences to have the vision to dream big, the courage to reach for near impossible goals, and the grit, determination, and ingenuity to transform our lives into something extraordinary. Weihenmayer’s daring adventures have shattered people’s perceptions all over the world about what is humanly possible. As a blind mountain climber, he has faced one of the most arduous tasks man can attempt, with a unique impediment that turned out to be a special gift. He defines vision as “an internal compass guiding us through the storm,” and gives new poignancy to the concept of seeing.
The Only Way To Cross A Glacier Is With A Rope Team. Erik Weihenmayer speaks with authority on the subject of teamwork. His Mt. Everest expedition holds a world record for the most people from one team to stand atop Everest’s peak in a single day. The key to pursuing his endeavors has been his superb ability to combine his strengths and talents with those of the people around him. He speaks to the importance of working as a team. “People might have different responsibilities, different goals, even motives, but you link together behind one vision. The scope and power of that kind of team is unstoppable.”
On Innovation: How To Pioneer New Possibilities. When Erik Weihenmayer realized he’d have trouble hearing teammates call out the timing for important turns while kayaking, he developed a submersible, open mic radio. When he noticed he would need something to assist him with being aware of an impending landing while paragliding, he designed and built a unique bell-and-rope system. Weinhenmayer doesn’t see himself as a risk taker, but as a problem solver and above all, an innovator. He is motivated by a sense of discovery to develop new strategies to make the world, and his adventures within it, safer, more efficient, and more productive. With this talk, he speaks passionately and memorably about finding creative ways to cross the blurry lines between what detractors view as impossible, and what we believe to be possible in our hearts.
Leading In The Dark. Erik Weihenmayer describes the time he and his partner, a much better climber, were caught on a dangerous rock face at nightfall and without working headlamps. In spite of his fear, Weihenmayer knew this was his time to lead his friend down to safety. He believes the most important aspect of leadership is how we pass it on to others. “Leadership is contagious,” he says, “We pass it from body to body, from life to life, and we give all the people around us the courage to do great things.”
I don’t know where to begin or where to end. Erik's presentation was amazing. Everything about it. The way he frames things, his ability to link stories and references together without losing the pace of the presentation. The breaks he takes to show us “art” in videos and pics which take your breath away. It’s all amazing. It’s inspiring. Exhilarating. Touching. Pick the emotion, it’s there. I’m not sure words adequately describe.For me, I’m watching all of this and our sales force, like many, has ADD or ADHD. They can’t put their phones down. I scanned the room multiple times. Not one phone was being used. That may sound small but it isn’t. It’s remarkable. I had no less than 30 people come up to me and tell me they had been to 15 meetings, 40 meetings, etc. and they all said this was hands down the best speech they had every seen. Oh, and it’s important for you to know that we had Marcus Lutrell at our meeting a few years back. Yea, the Navy Seal who inspired the movie Lone Survivor. And he was incredible.
What was great was so many people also said (after they told me they feel entirely unaccomplished and inadequate in the face of knowing what Erik has done) that it really made goals or obstacles in front of them seem insignificant. Meaning sales goals. This meeting opened minds. It opened hearts. It reached and touched people. Saying all of that, I found myself coming back to the courage Erik has in doing all of this. The climbing, kayaking. But also the speaking. It takes ANY person a huge degree of guts to get on stage in front of 300 people and talk for an hour. Let alone a blind man with no notes and no physical familiarity with the room. I just kept coming back to the courage he has and the inspiring mindset it must take for him to do what he does. His weaving of humor into the presentation really disarmed people and made them comfortable and that’s a talent. If you cannot connect with this presentation, you’re dead inside. No way around that. I had several people say we should just end the meeting now because there is now way to top that. Simply extraordinary.
“Erik Weihenmayer was phenomenal! He left our audience speechless, and in tears. We can’t stop talking about him – really amazing. Made me want to quit my job and go see the world!”
“I have talked to hundreds of people about the meeting. From every one of them I have heard consistent rave reviews. Erik's message touched 850 hearts that day, and his life story will be remembered forever. The consistent feedback from everyone with whom I've spoken is that Erik made this the best meeting they have ever been to. Erik has an uncanny ability to connect with his audience in a powerful, yet humble way. His message was universally applicable to everyone present, and was delivered with a wonderful combination of entertainment and emotion. He absolutely captivated the audience.”
“Thank you again for coming to spend time with us. Your impact at Google has been significant. On a personal note, your message on climbing with people that want to get to the top together caused me to re-organize some of the major aspects on my team at Google. So everyone is angry with you. Just kidding, they are in a much better place and as a team we accomplished a lot more than we thought we could.”
“I just wanted to let you know how fabulous Erik was at our Prudential Fox & Roach conference yesterday. He is the ONLY speaker to get a standing ovation (and our sales associates are a tough group to get their undivided attention.) They loved Erik. The comments were so positive! We had 2 previous speakers on Tuesday & Wednesday, and the group was not really looking forward to another speech. But boy, did Erik reach everyone. They laughed, gasped & cried and just hung on every word. He is SO GOOD. They were so glad they didn't blow the last day off & go home early. They were really in awe of his accomplishments and how well he handles himself and relates one on one with the group. I saw many of our group waiting in line to speak to him & have their pictures taken with him. He is one super young man!”
“Thank you so much for the wonderful presentation you gave to our Wells Fargo group. Everyone was talking about it for the rest of the conference. Your talk really was the highlight of our conference. It is my understanding that several people may be contacting you to come speak to several other audiences for Wells. Your message and story are truly inspiring to everyone around you.”