Welcome to the No Barriers Podcast where we explore the gritty reality of the struggles we all face, with the detailed stories of those that have persevered to find amazing outcomes on the other side. 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.
APRIL, 2020 UPDATE – New series rollout alert!! With the world we live in right now being filled with adversity, uncertainty and fear, we want to make a quick pivot. Starting April 7, when we publish the 1st of this new series, we’ll be bringing optimism and hope as we navigate through this unexplored terrain of COVID-19. And we want to speak to this extraordinary moment in our lives, right here and right now, while remaining true to the mission of illuminating the gritty reality of growth and transformation.
Our upcoming slate of guests and a revamped approach to our conversations will do just that. New episodes weekly and on point. We’ll work with industry leaders to tackle topics ranging from social isolation to managing change. You’ll learn simple tips to translate expert wisdom into the practical solutions you need to get through the chaos of today and learn to live a No Barriers Life tomorrow. This series is made possible due to the generous support of Wells Fargo and Prudential.
We’ll continue on this series as long as it feels relevant and helpful before returning to our original podcast format.
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Know someone we should feature on our podcast? Have questions, compliments, comments, concerns? Please contact our producer, Pauline Shaffer at firstname.lastname@example.org
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
Continuing on with our Alchemy Series (sponsored by Wells Fargo and Prudential) our hosts Erik and Dave speak with a world-renowned expert in perception, Dr. Beau Lotto. Beau's perspective during these particularly uncertain times explains how our brain is built for adaptability and evolution. We've encountered perilous times before and our brain is equipped to handle change and risk. His research explores the ways in which we experience the world through our own versions of reality. As Beau puts it, "the brain never sees the world as it actually is, only the world that is useful to see." By illuminating these principles of perception, he has helped individuals and companies transform their approach to creativity and innovation.
On this episode of our Alchemy Series, sponsored by Wells Fargo and Prudential, we speak with Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber. Nadia was our most popular guest to date, not to mention one of our first guests, when we began our podcast in 2018. We knew we had plenty to catch up on and that Nadia would be a perfect guest to offer guidance during these confusing times of COVID-19. An ordained Lutheran Pastor, Nadia is not your typical faith leader. She often writes and speaks about personal failings, recovery, grace, faith, and really whatever the hell else she wants to. As she puts it, she always “sits in the corner with the other weirdoes.”
In part 6 of our Alchemy Series (sponsored by Prudential and Wells Fargo), our hosts, Erik and Jeff, meet with Rebecca Rusch—a familiar face of the adventure scene. Rebecca speaks about her journey "home" and what that means in this pivotal moment in history. Known as the “Queen of Pain” with a heart of gold, Rebecca is a multi-decade professional athlete and 7x World Champion. Her career includes numerous adventure sports, and countless wins and accolades including induction into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.
As we continue to speak with thought leaders and experts during this pandemic for our Alchemy Series, it became clear a voice was missing: how are younger people adapting during this time? After all, Gen Z is notably affected: missing graduation ceremonies, virtual learning replacing the classroom entirely, proms, and other milestone moments being called off - we wanted to hear how someone in this demographic was responding to this moment in time.
For our fourth episode of our Alchemy Series, sponsored by Wells Fargo and Prudential, there is no greater example of harnessing adversity than No Barriers co-founder, Hugh Herr. In his early 20s, Hugh had both of his legs amputated after a tragic mountain climbing accident. An avid rock-climber, he was determined to return to the sport. Hugh created new iterations of prosthetic limbs for legs and feet he could use to climb even better than before.
Welcome to part three of our new Alchemy Series, sponsored by Wells Fargo and Prudential, where we speak to experts and thought leaders to attain advice and practical strategies to harness the adversity of COVID-19 and not just cope, but possibly thrive. Our guest today, Dan Thurmon, advocates for always being a bit “off-balance” in order to achieve greatness and expand our potential. Now, more than ever, as we are all forced out of balance in our daily and professional lives, his philosophy takes on even more importance.
Welcome to part two of our new Alchemy Series, sponsored by Wells Fargo and Prudential, where we speak to experts and thought leaders to attain nuggets of wisdom during COVID-19. The arts have played a critical role in everyone's lives during this trying time. When crisis occurs, art and music take on a new role in our lives. Whether that is escape, relief, or outlets of creativity, the importance of the arts becomes clear.
Introducing our new Alchemy Series, presented by Wells Fargo and Prudential. Our first guest is Dr. Paul G. Stoltz. Dr. Stolz is considered the world’s leading authority on the integration and application of grit and resilience. He is author of five international bestselling books on the subject, including the Adversity Advantage, co-written with host, Erik Weihenmayer. Dr. Stoltz has served as faculty for MIT’s acclaimed entrepreneurship program and for Carnegie Mellon’s distinguished Global Leaders Program, where his AQ and GRIT-related methods and assessments have been used to equip tomorrow’s leaders and entrepreneurs. Harvard Business School has selected and incorporated Dr. Stoltz’s Adversity Quotient® tools and methods into it’s top-rated MBA and Executive Education programs.
There’s a longer version of this content available in episode 41. If you’d like the more condensed version, play on! Introducing our new Alchemy Series, presented by Wells Fargo and Prudential. Our first guest is Dr. Paul G. Stoltz. Dr. Stolz is considered the world’s leading authority on the integration and application of grit and resilience. He is author of five international bestselling books on the subject, including the Adversity Advantage, co-written with host, Erik Weihenmayer. Dr. Stoltz has served as faculty for MIT’s acclaimed entrepreneurship program and for Carnegie Mellon’s distinguished Global Leaders Program, where his AQ and GRIT-related methods and assessments have been used to equip tomorrow’s leaders and entrepreneurs.
Content Warning: Profanity and Adult Content Comedian Josh Blue sat down with Erik and Jeff at our studio in Golden, CO to discuss his career as a comic who happens to have cerebral palsy. Following his groundbreaking win on NBC’s Last Comic Standing in 2006, Josh Blue has risen through the ranks to become a well-established headliner at venues throughout the world. His story has been featured on Fox, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, and CNN. He was the first comedian to perform stand-up on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, was named Best Winning Reality Show Guest on Live with Regis and Kelly, and made standout appearances on Comics Unleashed.
Laura DeMaio Roy has been training pet and service dogs for 10 years with a specialization in guide dog training and instruction. She has run successful dog training businesses in Connecticut and Colorado and currently owns DoggyU LLC where she runs a popular YouTube channel and helps owners train their own service dogs. Her YouTube channel, DoggyU, brings practical, positive reinforcement-based step-by-step training instruction to those who may not otherwise have access to it. Her channel also covers product reviews, dog lifestyle videos, service dog training, and dog and van travel videos. Laura has performed with her dogs all over the country, spoken at national and state conferences, and her dogs have appeared in print media ads.
Born in Casablanca to a multi-ethnic / multi-cultural family with roots in Europe, Africa, and South America, Laurent had the privilege of growing up, living, and traveling around the world. In 2012, after years of business in the technology and real estate arenas, he decided to take on a new adventure. With his wife, Aïcha Nyström, they started their own accessible travel company: Tapooz Travel, which focuses on encouraging, supporting and assisting travel experiences for the community of people with disabilities. They've organized accessible trips for hundreds of clients, from individuals and families to small group travel.
Born in Kuwait to refugee parents, Ryan Letada was raised in the Philippines before his family immigrated to the Bronx. His journey from failing student to CEO of his own organization has taught him a thing or two about luck, grit, and survival. While living and going to school in the Bronx, Ryan was awarded the Posse Foundation Scholarship, a recognition that paved the way for a Fulbright. During his Fulbright year, he launched the One Laptop Per Child program in the Philippines (the country’s first one-to-one digital learning program in rural communities).
Our hosts, Erik, Jeff, and Dave, spoke with André, the other week during his training for his newest endeavor: to explore human potential as him and his team cross continents - from the lowest point to highest summit, starting with South America. But André's story began in 2003 when, as a 23 year old student in Prague, he wound up on the tracks in front of an oncoming subway train. His injuries required both of his legs to be amputated above the knee. After his recovery he still returned to Prague to resume his studies, but it was a long road to recovery - both physically and emotionally. He wrestled with his inner demons and the choices he made that had led him to be in this situation.
Anne Lorimor is not your typical great-grandmother sitting in her rocking chair. At age 85, Anne broke the record for being the oldest woman to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world. Her record was soon broken, so at age 89, she returned to the mountain to reclaim the record.
Gena Harper works as a Certified Investment Management Analyst, Senior Vice President and Senior Investment Management Consultant at Morgan Stanley and provides her clients with custom financial planning that delves into and simplifies even the most complex situations. Gena also happens to be blind, and has spent her entire adult life proving that limitations are simply hurdles to be cleared.
No Barriers Podcast Hosts, Dave Shurna and Jeff Evans, speak with school leaders Jan Harrison and Jason Malone of the Compass Community Collaborative School in Fort Collins, CO. The Compass School is a tuition-free charter school where students learn through active and engaging real-world projects, then go on to graduate with a plan, a portfolio, and the tools to make a positive impact. The Compass School was one of the first schools to partner with No Barriers based on their mission-driven curriculum and emphasis on student-focused, individualistic, purposeful learning that extends beyond the classroom.
Today, we have a special episode for you. We are sharing some one-on-one interviews with No Barriers Summit participants from June 2019 in Lake Tahoe, CA. Our host, Jeff Evans, took a “man on the street” approach and got firsthand accounts from various folks to talk about their personal experiences. He spoke with veterans, teachers, coaches, parents, and many more individuals taking part in a variety of experiential activities to get their feedback and personal takeaways. The Summit is for people from all walks of life with all types of challenges—physical, mental, invisible. The Summit experience is as diverse as the people who attend. Our next No Barriers Summit takes place in San Francisco in September 2020 and we hope to see you there.
This episode focuses on the power of travel as one of the best forms of education with our guests, the two founders of AFAR Media, Greg Sullivan and Joe Diaz. When Greg and Joe launched AFAR in 2009, they joined forces with No Barriers Youth to also launch Learning AFAR, which provides travel experiences to high school students from low-income families. Over 1,500 students have been given life-changing experiences through this joint program.
Hailing from Philadelphia, Timmy O’Neill left after one semester of college to head out and design a life for himself. He quickly became known as the “Urban Ape," scaling buildings around the country, like the Chicago Tribune Tower, without any ropes. Now, he’s a seasoned Patagonia-sponsored climber with a lengthy and impressive resume that includes setting world speed climbing records in Yosemite, and first ascents around the world in Venezuela, Patagonia, Pakistan and Greenland. Timmy is also a world class slack liner, mountain biker, and kayaker, and recently guided completely blind kayaker, Lonnie Bedwell, down the Zambezi, a class V River.
Charlie Engle is a writer, runner, recovering addict and speaker. He’s run across the Sahara Desert, the Amazon, and is currently embarking on his audacious pursuit to run from the lowest point on earth; the Dead Sea to the tallest; the summit of Mt. Everest! But, Charlie says his greatest challenge has been becoming sober. He has stayed clean since 1992 and has channeled his addictive nature into his passion to run and what he calls “positive, purpose-driven pursuits.” In 2016, he wrote a memoir titled, “The Running Man” to illuminate the lessons he’s learned in his struggles and his triumphs.
Tish Scolnik is the CEO and co-founder of GRIT, a social enterprise that created the Freedom Chair, which is the mountain bike of wheelchairs. GRIT believes that everybody deserves access to the outdoors and adventure, regardless of their physical ability.
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, with credits including CSI, Dexter, and Numb3rs as well as national ads for IBM, Maxwell House and Pizza Hut. At the age of 42, Cordell focused on a different kind of role. 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 final destination being his hometown of West Hempstead, New York. 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. In 2015, he teamed with the North Shore Animal League America and Bianca’s Furry Friends to raise money and awareness, by rolling 123 miles across Long Island, New York. As a motivational speaker, Gabriel Cordell finally gets to share his inspiring story of turning tragedy into triumph.
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.
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.
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. Natasha started Dressing Room 8 which provides web-based resources through her fashion and lifestyle focused blog, consultation and coaching services. She is also an Adjunct Professor at Nassau Community College, Lifestyle Editor for Plus Model Magazine and the Program Coordinator for Long Island Girl Talk, a Long Island community-based start-up program that teaches teenage girls of color how to produce, direct and star in their own television show about women’s issues in their communities. Recently, she partnered with her husband to create the new podcast WokeNFree and she is the host of Our Voices on 90.3 WHPC. Natasha will lead a women’s track session at our No Barriers Summit this June!
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. She is also the Executive/Musical Director for Tabor Arts in Branford, CT, and for numerous productions through The Westchester Sandbox Theatre and Queens Theatre in NYC. An Actresss as well, Jamie is the subject of an award winning documentary: “And…Seen” as well as appearances on Madam Secretary, Law & Order SVU and the Today Show. Not to mention that she water skis, rock climbs, and is a professional wheelchair dancer. She will be performing at our No Barriers Summit during Opening Ceremony and leading workshops throughout the weekend.
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! Koba envisions a world where various groups of people can live together without being worried about their handicaps. To pursue his vision, he established a Tokyo-based non-profit organization called Monkey Magic that promotes free climbing among those with visual impairments. Koba believes climbing “is a lifetime sport that people with disabilities can enjoy throughout their lives which increases exercise opportunities, promotes self-reliance and social participation by empowering, and improves quality of life.” Koba is joined today by his guide, Naoya Suzuki.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. Years ago, he spent a decade managing the leadership development school, Outward Bound Professional in 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.”
Erik and Jeff begin the session recapping a recent experience helping Nerissa Cannon, a young woman in a wheelchair, climb a Colorado 14er. The discussion revolves around the importance of teamwork which is fitting since our guest is Maj. “Diggs” Brown who, since he left the Army, has worked with teams of veterans to help them heal.
We recorded this episode shortly after Erik had just returned from New York City where he circumnavigated all of Manhattan in a kayak to promote the No Barriers Summit that took place in October 2018. He took interviews along the way as journalists and you can read more and see some photos here.
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.
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.
Erik and Jeff speak with Tom Dixon, a young man from Philadelphia and the inventor of a brilliant mobile app called ME.mory. Like most app inventors, Tom identified a need that wasn’t being met and created software to address that need. His tragic accident and unique story behind his creation is what sparked our hosts’ interest and what makes Tom a true No Barriers Pioneer.
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.
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.
Gretchen Evans served 27 years in the US Army, earning a bronze star, and rising to the rank of Command Sergeant Major. During her service, Gretchen survived a rocket blast which left her with hearing loss and a traumatic brain injury.
Mark Wellman is a nationally acclaimed author, filmmaker and motivational speaker. Despite being paralyzed in a mountain climbing accident, Mark has inspired millions to meet their problems head-on and reach for their full potential. A two-time Paralympian and former Yosemite Park Ranger, Mark's NO LIMITS philosophy encourages individuals to adventure into new horizons; to go beyond the seeming unreachable.
This episode will introduce our listeners to the mission behind the No Barriers Podcast and what we are trying to accomplish with putting this out to our community. To start, you will meet our hosts and hear about their background.