|Erik Weihenmayer with my kids in 2009|
What’s within you is stronger than what is in your way. – Erik Weihenmayer
ERIK’S GIFT: Reach!
By Cheryl Cutting Page
“Reach!” Erik called down to Alia
“But I’m afraid,” she called back.
“Maybe you’re afraid for the wrong reason,” he hollered patiently, and smiled down at
her. “You’ll never know what you can touch unless you reach!”
Alia took a deep breath, mustered all of her courage and reached out towards Erik; when
their hands met he pulled her the rest of the way up onto the wide ledge.
Most of the other mountaineers in their group kept climbing, but Erik and his friend Jeff
sat down with Alia and waited while she caught her breath.
The view from this far up the mountain was spectacular but Alia couldn’t appreciate the
beauty because she was too busy talking about how difficult and scary it was to get there.
Erik sat quietly listening to her for a while before he finally spoke.
“Whether you are climbing this mountain, or climbing the mountain of your life, you
still have to reach out and take risks to get to the summit.
The good news is the view from the peak will be even more spectacular because you
were willing to challenge yourself to get there.”
“But what if I fall?” She asked seriously.
“We all fall sometimes,” was Erik’s reply. “But if we learn something each time we fall
we can use the lessons to help us the next time we reach out. Even more importantly
though is to surround ourselves with good people. If we do, they will be there to help us
when we stumble; just like you, Jeff and I are roped together on this climb to help keep
each other safe. Then if we fall we won’t fall as far.”
Alia sat quietly thinking about Erik’s words for a long time. It occurred to her she was
climbing a mountain and a blind man who had climbed all of the tallest mountains in the
whole-wide-world was helping her to do it, so he probably knows what he’s talking
“How old were you when you lost your sight?” Alia asked, hoping the question wasn’t
“Thirteen,” replied Erik.
“THIRTEEN years old?!” Alia exclaimed. “That’s just a little bit older than I am now!
But you still climb mountains, kayak big rivers, go paragliding, skiing and travel on
adventures all over the world!”
“Alia,” Erik answered patiently, “I lost my sight, but not my vision of what I want to
do with my life.”
She thought about this as she tossed pebbles off the ledge and watched them tumble
towards the valley below, then she told him:
“My friend, Bucky, taught me about finding my vision and how important it is.”
“He’s right,” Erik said. “If you have a clear vision it’s easier to make brave choices to
reach where you want to go.”
“How did you find your vision?” Alia asked.
“Well, losing my sight actually helped me find it,” said Erik with a smile.
“You’re kidding, right?” She liked how she could talk with him in the same easy way
she talked to her big brother.
“No, really,” he replied. “We each have a choice to let adversity stop us or motivate us;
I decided to let my challenges motivate me.”
“What do you mean?” Alia asked looking puzzled.
“As we climb the mountain of life there will be tough times along the way,” Erik
told her. “We don’t get a choice about having difficult times but we do get to choose
whether our challenges will make us give up our vision or if we’ll find a way to use them
to help us move forward.”
“But I’m just a kid,” Alia replied. “It’s harder when you’re a kid.”
“Well, if you think you won’t make it to the top of the mountain then you probably
won’t,” Erik replied. “The good news is you have another option; you can look for
possibilities instead, and when you do you’ll usually find them.
“How do you do it?” Alia wanted to know.
“If you focus with your eyes on how difficult something is then all you’ll see is
obstacles,” he said. “But if you look from your heart for what might be possible in spite
of the challenges then everything changes.”
She stood and turned to look up the mountain at the steep climb still ahead of them. It
looked difficult and scary but she was beginning to understand what Erik was talking
“So, if I look with my eyes I’ll only see what is in front of me, but if I look with
my heart I’ll see what might be possible?” Alia asked.
“Exactly,” he said. “This strategy won’t guarantee you’ll always get it right the first
time, but if you change the way you think about adversity you’ll have fewer challenges
and a better chance of success.
“Bucky taught me challenges can be good teachers,” said Alia. “He also said if my
vision is clear my journey will be easier, but why do you think this is?” she asked Erik.
“Because if your vision is clear you can see what you’re reaching for,” he replied.
“So what now? Where do I go from here?” she asked her friend.
“Just keep climbing, Alia. Find your vision and reach for it!” Erik told her.
“But how do I know what to reach for?” asked Alia.
This was Erik’s reply:
”Reach inside yourself for the strength you’ll need to climb.
Reach over obstacles as they arise.
Reach up to what is possible even when it seems impossible.
Reach out to the those around you for support on your expedition because your best
chance for success is to team up with other good people along the way. If you are willing
to do all of this then you’ll reach your way up to an extraordinary life.”
“Wow, Erik!” said Alia. “Do you really think I can do all of that?”
“I’m certain you can,” he assured her.
“Well it helps to know I don’t have climb alone.” she said thoughtfully.
“You are definitely not alone,” he replied with a big smile.
With these final words, she reached out her hand to him, and they continued their climb
up the mountain with Erik’s friend, Jeff guiding them both. Roped up and working
together they all reached the summit in the bright of the noonday sun.
As Alia stood looking out at the vastness before her she realized Erik was right – the
view was more spectacular from the peak of the mountain and it was worth the
challenges it took to get here.
© Cheryl Cutting Page 2012
This is a fictional story about a real gift of wisdom I received from my friend,
Erik Weihenmayer. I hope you enjoyed reading this gift as much as I enjoyed sharing it
with you. Remember Erik’s advice: reach out every chance you get, stay open and learn
to look with your heart so you can truly see all the wonderful possibilities awaiting you
on your journey.
Erik was not born blind; he was born with a condition which had him gradually lose his
eye sight. Erik decided early on he would not let blindness stop him from living a
fulfilling life. Despite losing his sight at age 13, Erik has become an accomplished
mountaineer, adventurer and humanitarian.
On May 25, 2001 Erik became the only blind man in history to reach the summit of the
world’s highest peak—Mount Everest. In August of 2008, he completed his quest to
climb all of the Seven Summits – the tallest peaks on each of the seven continents,
joining only 150 mountaineers who have ever accomplished this feat.
In addition to being a world-class athlete, Erik is also a best-selling author and public
speaker. Erik is an ordinary man with an extraordinary vision of what is possible if we
reach for our dreams. Erik’s accomplishments demonstrate how one does not need to
have perfect eyesight to have the vision necessary to achieve great things.
To learn more about Erik you can visit his website: www.touchthetop.com