Subscribe, download, and enjoy our free educational and uplifting podcast, hosted by No Barriers Co-founders Erik Weihenmayer & Dave Shurna along with longtime No Barriers partner Jeff Evans.
Together, they talk with individuals who are defying all odds in the pursuit of learning to live a No Barriers Life.
No Barriers Co-founder, adventurer, author, and first blind person to reach the summit of Mt. Everest
Executive Director and Co-founder of No Barriers, entrepreneur, and educator
Adventurer, expedition guide, and Co-founder of No Barriers Warriors
J.R. Martinez is an actor, best-selling author, motivational speaker, advocate, and wounded U.S. Army veteran. He hails from a small town in Georgia, where he grew up as the son of a single working mother who emigrated from El Salvador.
After high school, he joined the army and in 2003 was deployed to Iraq. One day his humvee hit a roadside bomb, ejecting the three other soldiers and trapping J.R. inside. He suffered smoke inhalation and severe burns to 34 percent of his body. He spent 34 months in recovery and had 34 different surgeries, including skin grafts and cosmetic surgery in the eleven years since his injury. During his recovery, he discovered the power of sharing his experience and listening to others. He now travels the world spreading his message of resilience and optimism.
Meet the legend: Mark Wellman. Mark met with our hosts at our studio in Golden to discuss his storied climbing career, his many first ascents and other athletic achievements, as well as his devastating accident that left him a paraplegic. Hear the humble genesis of No Barriers, the nonprofit Mark and Erik co-founded and the namesake of this podcast.
Our hosts connect with Gretchen Evans, a former Command Sergeant Major in the US Army, bronze star recipient, No Barriers Warriors leader, and a newly minted author. Gretchen details her journey of serving her country, becoming deaf from a rocket blast, and the struggle to find purpose and meaning outside of the service and with a disability.
Meet Ethan Johnston, a young man living in Colorado who has overcome great odds in his life to find independence and happiness. As a young boy, Ethan was kidnapped from his family in Ethiopia, blinded and used as a beggar. He was found and eventually adopted to a family in the U.S. and discusses the path that led him to finding his way out of so much darkness.
Our guest, Billy Lister is a Paralympic cyclist, who most recently represented Team USA in the Rio Olympics, competing in both track and road events. 18 years ago, Billy was diagnosed with a rare and acute brain abnormality which resulted in a loss of mobility due to a stroke. Listen to hear about his experience with adversity and his No Barriers journey to becoming a world-class Paralympian.
George Heinrichs’ resume is filled with awards and accomplishments for his aptitude for business as well as social justice. But George would not have gotten where he is today, the CEO of a major company, without facing barriers both professionally and in his personal life.
Our hosts talk with Tom Dixon about his innovative app that he created as the result of an injury he sustained in his mid-twenties when he was hit by a car and suffered a traumatic brain injury. His TBI caused seizures and severe losses in his episodic memory, a type of amnesia meaning he does not recall the details of his day. Instead of retreating into a dark place, Tom used his new condition to be the catalyst to create the innovative mobile app ME.mory that helps him fill in the missing memories.
Jeff, Erik, and Dave talk with Heidi McKenzie, who is speaking from her home state of Kentucky. After a car accident left her as a T4 paraplegic in a wheelchair when she was just 21, she not just survived but started a thriving career and has been an outspoken advocate for folks with disabilities.
After establishing Steve and Dave’s Chicago connection, the hosts dive into why he’s been brought on as a guest: after Steve attended a No Barriers Corporate retreat he was able to recognize the core No Barriers elements that he could bring back to his own company to reinvigorate his teams.
Most of the time, Shannon explains, people find activism overwhelming and, especially in this day and age with all that is going on, it can seem like too much work to be involved. And instead, people become apathetic. But Shannon’s goal is to get people (including her daughter) to blast through this apathy, find their passion, and start working towards a goal or project to bring about change.
Diggs has had seemingly many lives. He’s a current film actor, served in the Army as an officer in the Special Forces, and even worked as a financial advisor — the position he had when 9/11 happened, which led to his decision to join the Army. The conversation starts with Diggs describing how he found the organization No Barriers at age 56 after returning from Afghanistan with a TBI and other injuries, including PTS and joined the No Barriers Warriors to take on his first expedition with other veterans.
A professional mountaineering guide, Luis has summited the top of the famed “Seven Summits” a cumulative 32 times, including being a six-time summiteer of Mt. Everest. He currently serves as the 1st State Director for the Outdoor Recreation Industry office for Colorado. He also served as COO and Director of Operations for Adventure Consultants (AC), a highly respected New Zealand-based global expedition firm with a long and storied history of leading trips on Mt. Everest that was featured both in the book Into Thin Air and in the movie Everest. Luis has reported from Mt. Everest for ABC-TV News and has filmed segments for National Geographic on Mt. Everest. Ultimately he believes, “If you really challenge yourself, you can truly change your world.”
Angie Shireman, a jewelry artisan, small business owner, certified yoga instructor, wife, mom, and artist, has seemingly lived a carefree life. But her smiling personality belies her real story. During this episode, our hosts have Angie recount these dark moments in her life and how she dug deep to find her way to the light and become the shiny person she is today.
In this episode, Jeff and Erik met with Craig DeMartino, a renowned rock climber who is also an amputee. Craig works with an organization called Adaptive Adventures, helping people learn to or get back to rock climbing despite any challenges they are facing. But before Craig worked with this group, he was just a regular climber, focusing mostly on what he wanted to do and where he wanted to be, along with his wife and two kids. They traveled and climbed as Craig worked as a photographer. In 2002, Craig was climbing with a partner in Estes Park and had a life-changing accident that resulted in the lower part of right leg being amputated, a fused spine, and an array of persistent nerve pain, along with PTS related to climbing again. Despite this, he looks back and thinks he was lucky considering how much worse it could have gone.
Sean Swarner has many athletic accomplishments under his belt and uses them to spread a message of hope. Despite being in a medically-induced coma for a year, with only one functioning lung and a prognosis of fourteen days to live, Sean became the first cancer survivor to stand on top of Mt. Everest. Diagnosed with two deadly and unrelated forms of cancer, once age thirteen and again at age sixteen, Sean astounded the medical community when he survived both. He realized that after defeating cancer twice, no challenge would ever be too great, no peak too high. He has since topped the “7-Summits” and skied both the South and the North Poles. He continues to test his own endurance and inspire and motivate people around the world with his message of hope. He founded the non-profit organization, The CancerClimber Association, and is now an author, speaker, and most recently the feature of the documentary True North.
Nadia Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran pastor, a former stand-up comic, an author of two best selling New York Times list books, and a speaker. She served as the founding Pastor of the House for All Sinners and Saints, a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denver, Colorado. Most recently, she finished writing her third book, Shameless, a challenge to the antiquated ideas our society views sex, gender, and our bodies.
George Basch is the Chief Cook and Founder of The Himalayan Stove Project, a humanitarian and philanthropic program dedicated to preserving the Himalayan environment and improving the health of the people by donating and distributing free, clean-burning, fuel-efficient Envirofit cookstoves for families and transforming the indoor air quality.
Koichiro Kobayashi, known as “Koba,” is a “paraclimbing legend.” Koba went blind at age 28 from a degenerative eye disease and at age 31 decided to take up climbing. He has since racked up a number of gold medals around the world!
Jamie Petrone is a renaissance woman with many talents and achievements under her belt. She is the Executive Director and Founder of THISAbility, a performing arts conservatory and professional theatre company, cultivating inclusion in the arts.
Natasha Nurse held various stints in the corporate world prior to making a foray into fashion and writing. Having been a victim of bullying as a child growing up in NYC, Natasha sought out fashion as a source of strength early on and actively uses it as a personal means of empowerment.
Before founding Runway of Dreams Foundation (RoDF) in 2014, Mindy Scheier spent 20 years working in fashion on the design team for the INC collection and as a stylist for Saks Fifth Avenue. Mindy was inspired to start RoDF after her son Oliver, who has Muscular Dystrophy, dreamed of wearing jeans like everyone else. RoDF collaborated with Tommy Hilfiger on the first mainstream adaptive clothing line for kids in 2016. Through adaptive clothing donations, employment opportunity initiatives, adaptive design workshops, awareness building campaigns and scholarships programs, RoDF is empowering people with disabilities with opportunity, confidence, independence and style. Envisioning a world where fashion is mainstream and accessible for all, Mindy continues to break down barriers and challenge industry norms.
Jeff and Dave spoke with Scott Kim a few weeks before he was scheduled to speak at our No Barriers Summit in Tahoe. Scott called in from his hometown of San Francisco (and was appropriately sporting a Warriors jersey) to tell them about his journey to success in creation of the Rapael Smart Glove. As with other innovators and entrepreneurs they have spoken with previously – Scott outlines the difficulties and barriers he faced and how he dealt with them.
Marisa Hamamoto is an activist, dance artist, and speaker looking to empower people through dance and storytelling to disable bias, encourage others to get out of their comfort zone, build new connections, and create breakthrough innovations. After 20 years of dancing ballet and contemporary dance in both the US and Japan, Marisa discovered and fell in love with ballroom dancing while recovering from spinal cord infarction, a rare stroke which caused her to be temporarily paralyzed from the neck down. In 2015, Marisa founded Infinite Flow, An Inclusive Dance Company, leading a global movement to make dance accessible to all and use dance to inspire inclusivity. She has brought Infinite Flow’s professional dancers with and without disabilities to perform at over 100 events, from school assemblies to corporate events with Apple, Red Bull, Porsche, Kaiser Permanente, and others. Infinite Flow’s videos have been viewed by over 50 Million people and she has been featured in over 100 media outlets including NBC Today, Good Morning America, Refinery 29, and others.
In 1992, two months after his 22nd birthday, Gabriel Cordell was en route to his first professional audition when an accident changed his life forever. Only a mile and a half away from home, his Jeep was t-boned and flipped, and Cordell was ejected from his vehicle, hitting a telephone pole that crushed his spinal cord. The accident left him paralyzed from his mid-chest down. After four months of recovery and physical rehabilitation, Gabriel continued to pursue his dream of being an actor, now as a paraplegic. He established his acting career on stage and screen. At the age of 42, he became the first person to roll across the United States in a standard, manual wheelchair — a 3,100-mile journey from the Pacific to the Atlantic. The inspiring trek is the subject of an award-winning documentary film called, Roll With Me: A Journey Across America. In 2014, Gabriel traveled to Israel and mounted a Roll for Peace between the Palestinians and Israelis, completing that 100km journey from Haifa to Tel Aviv in his wheelchair. Gabriel Cordell shares his inspiring story of turning tragedy into triumph.
At our most recent No Barriers Summit at Lake Tahoe this past June, our three hosts were joined on stage by Mandy Harvey for a special live production of our podcast.
Mandy Harvey is an award-winning singer and songwriter who also happens to be deaf. Mandy was a Vocal Music Education major at Colorado State University, when she lost her residual hearing at age eighteen due to a connective tissue disorder that affected her nerves.
She left the program and pursued several career options, including education, but returned to music in 2008, as her true passion could no longer be denied. She quickly became a successful performer and has released three albums and won numerous awards.
Most notably, in 2017 she was on America’s Got Talent, where her performance of her original song “Try,” sung while playing the ukulele, moved Simon Cowell to press his Golden Buzzer and send Mandy straight to the Quarterfinals. She went on to make the Finals and placed 4th overall.