Erik and Dave speak with Anthony Ferraro – a talented athlete and musician who happens to be blind. Anthony is currently training in Judo to participate in the upcoming Paralympic Games and has a background in wrestling. He has recently gone viral for his short videos showcasing his life – everything from making oat milk to skateboarding – as a blind person. But ultimately, Anthony aims to spread love and kindness. Enjoy!
Anthony Ferraro was born blind. Today Anthony is 25 years old and refers to himself as a professional athlete, musician, and motivational speaker. Flashing back to his High School career, Anthony was the only blind wrestler on his team. With the goal of winning a New Jersey state championship his senior year, his older brother Oliver followed him around and collected hundreds of hours of live footage. His film, “A Shot in the Dark” is now available on Amazon Prime.
When the United States Paralympic committee came across a viral trailer of the film they asked him if he would train in Judo to represent his country at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. COVID derailed Anthony’s training temporarily and he pivoted to music as his main outlet. Taking his musical talents on the road, Anthony branded a live stream music tour he called, “Anthony Ferraro’s Blind Busking Live Stream Music Tour 2020.” Along with his fiance, they traveled through 23 states and over 9,800 miles of American highways and backroads.
Anthony continues to train for the upcoming Paralympic Games in Judo. His head is down and his focus is on continuing to get his message of peace and positivity to the world.
Website — https://asfvision.com
I'm only so grateful of these good moments because of those bad moments. I know that there's those bad moments so when these good moments come, you have to embrace them and really live in them and be grateful every time they come.
It's easy to talk about the successes, but what doesn't get talked about enough is the struggle. My name is Erik Weihenmayer. I've gotten the chance to ascend Mount Everest, to climb the tallest mountain on every continent, to kayak the Grand Canyon, and I happen to be blind. It's been a struggle to live what I call a no-barriers life, to define it, to push the parameters of what it means. And part of the equation is diving into the learning process and trying to illuminate the universal elements that exist along the way. And that unexplored terrain between those dark places we find ourselves in and the summit, exists a map. That map, that way forward, is what we call No Barriers.
Today we'll meet Anthony Ferraro, a blind wrestler, musician, and motivational speaker. Currently, he's training in judo to represent the USA in the 2021 Paralympic Games in Tokyo this summer. His film, A Shot In The Dark, about his experience as the only blind wrestler in his high school and his goal of winning a state championship is available on Amazon Prime.
Anthony has a viral following of TikTok and Instagram where he shares funny and insightful tutorials of his activities as a blind person, from skateboarding to making oat milk. Anthony's delightful and positive approach to life and its challenges are why we are so excited to speak with him today. Enjoy the conversation.
Welcome to another edition of our No Barriers Podcast. Erik, I am really excited with today's conversation that's coming up here, to have Anthony joining us. We've known Anthony for years and his story's really incredible. Anthony, welcome to the show.
Hey, thank you so much, guys. It's a pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me.
So Anthony, you're in Asbury Park? Is that how you say it? Isn't that where The Boss came out of?
Yeah, so that's why I mentioned it because not too many people know outside New Jersey where Spring Lake is. And Asbury Park's like three towns over and everybody knows Bruce Springsteen. So always you throw it up.
Of course, man. I want to go visit Asbury Park just so I can walk into the bars and stuff that he played in.
I know you are an accomplished wrestler, an Olympic competitor for judo, but was there any aspect of moving to Asbury Park that tied to your passion for music?
Yes and no. So the main reason for moving back to Spring Lake, I grew up here and I have a huge family. I'm the youngest of five, but my mom's the second-oldest of 13, and I have 60 cousins that all grew up in this area. So it's like when this pandemic hit, it kind of made you realize what's important in your life. And family's super important as well. And you want to be as close to them as possible, so it all kind of just fell into place moving into Spring Lake while everything was going on and finding this apartment out of nowhere. So we got really, really lucky and it's just been a blessing.
Man, I wish I had 60 cousins to rely on. Hey, I need a loan. Bail me out of jail. You're bound to have somebody for every role.
There's like the plumber, the lawyer, the doctor. You always got someone to reach out to. Growing up with all them, we grew up on a beach town, like surfing, skateboarding. So I never got treated any differently being blind. They were more like, "Hey, keep up." And help me devise ways to keep up. But it was a lot of fun.
Now, Anthony, you've been blind since birth due to a disorder we can talk about later. But you're still a young guy, sort of think of you as sort of like a younger, hipper version of Erik Weihenmayer.
I knew that was coming.
Started your career wrestling. He's got his long curly hair and his beanie on and his beard and his-
I know, I saw his TikTok video, Dave, of he's like, "This is how I do my hair."
I know, right?
I was thinking he must have good hair.
You don't understand. The top comment was, "How do you do your hair? How do you do your hair?" And it was more a joke because I'm like, "Listen, it's literally bed-head. I put it in a bun and go to sleep and take it out and this is my hair." Just had to do it a funny way to tell that story, so it was just fun.
Anthony, you can't see me obviously, but I'm 52 and I've got a big giant gray beard now I'm told.
And stringy greasy hair. I didn't shower because I knew it wasn't going to matter today.
When Erik stands up, you can almost hear his bones creak he's so old now after a lifetime of athletic competitions and climbing.
You know what they say, Dave, out with the old, in with the new.
Exactly, right? We have to have people like Pauline even tell us what TikTok is. But man, I was telling Anthony-
I know, I said Tic Tac. Your Tic Tac videos.
Since we brought it up, tell us about your TikTok channel, why you started it, how we can follow on, and kind of what you focus on.
So TikTok I guess started out a long time ago. It's known as dances and lip-syncing, all that entertaining stuff or whatever. But it's really transformed in a way now that it has different outlets. Like you can get served cooking content, you can get served educational content, motivational, yoga, etc. And it's really became similar to you two, but in short-form videos, like 10-seconds to one-minute videos.
And my fiance was trying to get me to do ... She's like "Oh, you should do these viral dances with your cane. It would be funny." I'm like, "Absolutely not." Like, "Screw that. Screw TikTok." Blah, blah, blah. And I was against it for a long time. And I've always been trying to build a network to try and reach as many people as possible to just help and motivate along the way. And a couple, maybe two months ago now, two and a half months ago, we sat down in my apartment and I'm like let's introduce myself to TikTok but in a way that this is me.
And we did that. I was like, "I'm Anthony Ferraro. There's one thing that's a little different about me." Scene changes. "I'm blind." And it's me with my cane. And I also surf, skateboard, wrestle, and it shows me with all these things and training for the Olympics. And went to sleep and I had like 30 followers and I had like 100 views on the video. I went to sleep and the next day we woke up and the video had over 30,000 views and I had like a thousand followers and I was like, "Wait, what just happened?"
All these comments of, "You're so inspiring. Thank you so much. You're really helping me. I can't wait to see more of your life." Blah, blah, blah. And just kind of kept going from there, making these videos, people asking how do you do this. I don't try to speak for the blind community. That's one thing I try to be conscious of because I know everybody's different. And that's why in the beginning of my videos, I usually say, "I'm blind and this is how I do this."
I seem so positive to everybody but I also try to show life can also be super hard. Every day is different and sometimes life sucks, but that's okay, we have to get up and move past that and keep going forward.
So Anthony, let me comment on a couple of things about your TikTok site. I like them a lot. So I like the ones where you're showing people how to do your hair and brush your teeth and stuff like that because a lot of people are curious about that stuff. Now, your cooking skills didn't impress me too much. I think there were some chicken nuggets in there. But you still had to turn on the stove, so that was good.
So the chicken nuggets, it is a joke, but it's not because I love to make those as a quick snack to pop in the oven real fast and it's easy.
I eat chicken nuggets too, 100%.
And I always have to go with the organic ones, so that was the joke there. And I was showing, yeah, I'm making chicken nuggets but, look, I also make these awesome potatoes on the side. I'm not just making quick food. And just having fun with it. I didn't expect ... That was more for fun and that video has like 7 million views and I was like, "What happened?"
And Anthony, your wrestling career in high school is fascinating and profiled in the documentary called A Shot In The Dark, which is available on Amazon right now. How did you decide, as you were going to try to win state championships, to also chronicle this at the same time in a film?
That's a good question because sometimes thing fall into place. And my older brother, Oliver, he's a huge inspiration in my life. He was my hero and I looked up to him so much growing up. And he's the reason I started wrestling. I got to this point in wrestling where I was winning championships and I was only wrestling sighted people. And I was really the first blind ... Not first, definitely not first, but in New Jersey, one of the first getting championships and stuff. And it almost became a political thing where kids were getting upset about that I had to stay in constant contact. Parents saying it's an unfair advantage, coaches saying these things, to the point where they were saying this kid's faking being blind so he can an unfair advantage. One time-
Let me just interrupt, Anthony, just so people know that as a blind person, one of your adaptations for wrestling is that you start standing up with your hands touching, your palms touching or fingertips touching. And so that kind of evens the playing field. And if they separate from you for more than a second, then they reconnect you guys, they put you back into that hand. So that's the one adaptation that you're talking about. That probably threw people off?
Absolutely. What you said is exactly right, the two-hand touch contact. And when you breakaway, it can be dangerous if I have no idea where you are. So the ref brings it back to the center. And this really threw people off because they tried saying ... Well, I can understand too because they said it changed up their style a little bit and things like that. But then it became such to a point that it's an unfair advantage. And then to the point where he's faking being blind so he can get an advantage.
It just became to a point where I'm like 16 years old at that point and it became so much pressure and so much unnecessary ... I was like I just want to wrestle and have fun. It got so frustrating at times.
What would you say is your biggest weakness on the wrestling mat and what's your biggest advantage? What's your biggest strength?
My biggest weakness is my own mind. And also my coach would say defending leg attacks, which we worked on so much to the point where I was always on the offense. And my biggest advantage on the mat was I was always in phenomenal shape, like conditioning. I always made sure that I worked so hard that I was never more tired than the other person. I used to feed off them getting tired and I would feel that.
And I think also being blind, it actually helped me in a way that I was able to feel these moves better. I was able to feel my opponent when they would tense up to do a level change or to try and attack. And I would feel these things. And on the other note, in the wrestling room, I wasn't able to see when everyone else was ... In practice, I didn't know this for a long time, but people can take breaks and slack a little and dance around when they're wrestling. And I always in the mindset that everyone else around me was going hard, so I need to go harder. So that really helped me train in a way that I was able to get to the next level quicker than I would have if I didn't do that.
And your coaches, I saw in the film, you'd be the dummy that he would do the moves on. So you would physically feel how the moves were being done.
Exactly. That's the easiest way to learn is to have it done.
I'd love to go back to you've got several brothers but you said one of your brothers was really your inspiration. Can you talk to us about that brother and how he inspired you to get into wrestling?
That was Oliver, right?
Yeah, so it's a funny story. I went to school in Philly, so from New Jersey to Philly every day to learn braille. And I went to St Lucy Day School for the blind. So I would go to school two hours and then two hours back, like the driving, go from 8:00 to 2:30 and then come home, get home at like 4:30. And I would sit home, it would get dark early, and I'd watch TV, two inches away with the sight that I had at the time.
And I was getting lazy and my brothers were really active and they kind of picked on me. They're like, "Ant, you're already blind. You can't be blind and fat." I'm sorry, blind and overweight. They challenged me. They were like, "You control this laziness. You need to do something. You need to get active. Find something."
Because I used to do soccer and all these things when I was younger and then realized I can't do this. And it got to the point where my older brother Oliver was a wrestler and he was amazing. He was fifth in the state of New Jersey. I remember going to all his matches. It was incredible. I'd be in awe. These people he was supposed to lose to, he's be like tech falling, which means you beat them by 15 so it's a mercy rule, they have to end the match.
And I just remember he's larger than life. Like who is this guy? He looked like he was like 30 years old to me when he was in high school because of how big and he's just this monster. And I said, "You know what? Why don't I try that? I'll try wrestling." And I did.
And I started wrestling in 7th grade when I transferred from St Lucy Day School to the public school in my town after I became efficient in braille and learned all these things to become mainstream. And I started wrestling and I was awful. I went 2-12 or something and one of my wins was a forfeit where you just go out and get your hand raised. And I remember the last match of that year, saying to my dad after I lost in that gym in the tournament saying, "I want to get better at this, Dad. I don't want to be mediocre. I want to get good at this."
So he found me a club with Mike Malinconico and I started going four nights a week and going to tournaments every single weekend, just getting beat up so bad to the point where I was losing, I wouldn't score a point. And I remember I changed my goals. I was like instead of winning a match, let me score a point. So I started scoring points. And then I was like, "Oh, man." And then I started scoring more points. And then I started winning matches. And then I was like, "Wow, this hard work is actually paying off."
Because I remember one time leaving a gym saying, "I don't know I'm cut out for this, Dad." And he's like, "No, just stick it out. You've got this." And I was like, "Yeah, you're right." And that's when things started to change. Right before I was about to give up and I just kept going, that's when I turned that corner. And in 8th grade, I ended up going 24-1 and winning the entire championship. So it was a dramatic change.
And then your brother Oliver's idea was to take a ton of footage of you wrestling, right? He was the one that took a lot of that footage. Is that correct?
Right. So when I got accepted to the school that both my brothers went to, it was their high school. And I was accepted, hand-written letter in 7th grade, getting my books brailled and stuff. And then in 8th grade, that president who wrote that letter passed away. Then the school sent a letter and a phone call saying, "Anthony's no longer accepted to this school. He won't fit into the culture academically or environmentally." And it was just heart-breaking. I was like 14 years old, like, "This is not fair, man."
I remember going home. I won a big wrestling match that day and I was all excited and then I found this out. I went home and punched a hole in my bedroom wall. My mom was so mad at me but I was so mad. And I remember I had to fix it. Later on, I had to fix that hole. And I was just so upset. I can't even control being blind. This is so unfair. I didn't ask for this. And I was just so pissed.
And it was just this first real shock of adversity in my life that I was able to understand. And I kept going. I just kept pushing through and putting my outlet into wrestling. And my brother saw how hard I worked and he saw me dealing with people, all the naysayers and haters saying all these things. But me, just continuing to work my butt off constantly in the room and just working as hard as I could in life, and he really respected that.
And he was into film. He went to film school. And my junior year, after I won the district championship after all the newspapers said I was going to lose, I wouldn't even make it out of the districts, and I ended up winning, he took a video of me talking about what it was like to be a blind wrestler. Just a short two-minute video, and being blind in life and dealing with certain challenges and adversity and overcoming those obstacles. And he posted it saying this is my little brother, I want to make a film about him. If you're a camera operator, producer, yadda, please reach out because I don't have the resources.
Then he ended up getting in contact with this guys, Chris Suchorsky, who was an independent film producer. And they made the decision to make a full feature-length documentary of my senior year, all self-funded out of pocket, filmed independently and stuff. And Chris did a lot of the filming while Oliver lived in California doing most of the editing and stuff like that, giving the okays on things, and arranging scenes, and telling Chris what to film, doing a lot of the directing from there. And Ollie also came back as much as he could to film.
And then they got all this footage of my senior year, following me around. It didn't even bother me because I didn't notice any of the cameras clearly.
Good advantage. You can shove cameras in your face and you don't know it, like me.
We make excellent candidates.
Exactly. We act natural. They filmed it all. And after senior year, it kind of got put on the shelf because Oliver moved back home and bought a house and the guy had a kid, so life happened. They're both working on other projects. Two years later, they take it off the shelf to put together. Chris takes it off the shelf. He's like, "I love what there's here. There's a really good story to tell." And he puts together the first 15 minutes and schedules to meet with my brother to show him all excited.
And the day before they were supposed to meet, my brother at the age of 27 passed away and he got to see none of his film. It was just a huge shock to the community. His funeral, I've never been to a funeral where they had to shut down the highway because of the viewing. They had to shutdown the highway because the line went around the funeral home, off through the block, and across the highway. It really at that point, I was like "Wow, my brother really built a legacy and I need to honor this."
And Chris at the funeral, vowed to me, "Whatever it takes, I'm going to finish this film." And he did that in a year and a half. And after that, we needed to raise money. So the trailer, he put it on Kickstarter and we had to raise $30,000 and we raised that in like four days and ended up raising $87,000 at the end of the month. Finishing the film and going to all these festivals in honor of my brother and winning a few awards around the country and it was just incredible.
And through that, the Olympic Committee saw the documentary and reached out to me. I'm sitting at home feeling sorry for myself. My brother passed away. My mom actually had a brain injury where I found her a few months after my brother passed away, I found my mom at the bottom of the stairs. And she had a traumatic brain injury and she was recovering from that and all this stuff going on in my life.
And I get a phone call, "Is this Anthony Ferraro? It's the Unites States Olympic Committee." I'm like, "I'm sorry, I think you have the wrong number." And they're like, "We saw your film and would you consider training judo? Wrestling's no longer in the Paralympics but judo is the next best thing. It's the closest thing to wrestling. It's like wrestling with a jacket on and you'll learn some submissions and stuff." And I was like, "Absolutely. I'll try this out, definitely."
And since then, I've been doing that and it's been incredible traveling around the world, competing in judo and possibly making it to these next Olympic Games. It's very exciting doing that with a lot of other things on the side. But that's how that film came to be and what it really helped me in my life with.
I want to talk about judo obviously, but I want to double-down on a couple of things that you said. So one, the biggest understatement in the world, your brother died unexpectedly. That must've been a massive shock. We have something else in common, my brother died too as a young guy. He was 46 and he died from a heart attack and some other complications. So your brother, it sounds totally unexpected.
Absolutely. I'm sorry, I actually knew about that and I'm sorry about your brother. We're in a club that we never want to be in but we're in it together. So you're not alone is really the message there. And it was so unexpected. He was living his life. He was so, in a lot of people's eyes, so successful. He was a marking director for a big solar company. He worked for Hulu when they were just a startup in California. And he made so many moves. My brother was so independent. He told people stories. He was a visionary. He was able to see something and make it a reality.
And it was just so incredible to watch him. He was larger than life and he was a goof too. He made people laugh. He was such a hustler. This kid did everything. And just out of nowhere, he died in his sleep from an overdose that no one saw coming. It was just such a shock and it was horrible. Coming out of that, it was like a blur. I'm sure you remember the feeling where everything's like a fog and you don't feel like it's real.
But in a way, it's not like you ever wished this as you just said, but kind of going forward in your brother's spirit and his energy probably helped you guys to finish this beautiful film that becomes a beautiful legacy of him as well, and then leads to your invite to join the Paralympic team. It's weird twists and turns isn't it?
Absolutely. It's like this scary puzzle of life. You go through all these stages of your life and not understanding why things happen. And maybe you'll never fully understand. But looking back, you're like if none of this happened, I wouldn't be where I am today and be able to do the things I'm able to do and have such support behind me, things like that. And it's everything is really, it just falls where it's supposed to.
When you're in that dark space, because a lot of our guests talk about this, you've got the devastating loss of your brother and then your mom has a traumatic brain injury, and obviously we're talking about the movie and helping you get out of that and we'll go on to the story of judo, but what do you do in the midst of that to not give up?
Some days were really dark too. Some days are scary. You don't even want to get out of bed and your body's trembling and you're just like ... I get chills thinking about it because it's a real feeling. You deal with these things in life that you never get full answers to and you're going in these transitions in your life. And you're like, "What do I do?" And the first step is just making your bed, getting out of your bed and making your bed, and then going on. That starts this chain reaction. Okay, I just made my bed. Let me brush my teeth and shower and then get dressed.
And it's like, all right, it's pretty nice out. Let me actually step outside. And this causes this chain reaction because if you're laying in your bed ... And it's okay, you have to take the time for yourself when you're down. But living in that is not okay. You have to climb out of it. My fiancee, she's seen me in my dark times too and all she wishes she could do is pull me out. But she knows too that I'm the only one that can do that and she can just be there for me.
So for me, I have to make my bed. I have to get up. I have to go get some fresh air or else those things won't happen, so I have to make them happen. And then the rest falls into place. I go for a run, I do what I have to do. And then your mind just starts feeding these positive thoughts and feeding this chain reaction like I said of just doing better things for yourself.
And Anthony, it sounded like you were kind of in the midst of still going through that recovery process. You probably still are, but you were still struggling with the loss of your brother, with the injury to your mom, you aren't wrestling anymore. And then was it literally like out of the blue that someone contacted you about judo?
Yeah, I was literally sitting at home watching all this stuff happen with the film and all this excitement and stuff. I just moved back from California. I had moved out there for a couple of years with some friends and I've just moved back because all this stuff happened. I just wanted to be around family.
And I'm sitting at home and I'm literally, I remember where I was sitting in my house, and I was sitting in the front room where I rarely ever sit. And I get a phone call and they're just like this is so and so from the United States Paralympic Committee. Why are they calling me? Literally, I was like this is so confusing.
And then I wanted to work towards something. I wanted another goal. I'm fueled by having this mountain to climb. I know you feel the same, Erik, literally. I like being at the bottom and I'm like I have so much to learn but I want to do it as fast as possible. I want to learn as much as I can every day, really just fully absorb myself in it. And judo is that opportunity. And I just fell in love with not so much that it's falling in love with competing judo, I'm falling in love with the training, the learning, the process.
I learned so much after that high school journey that I fell so much in love with this goal I have is ahead of me. Blind eyes on nothing else but this goal that is becoming this champion, blah, blah, blah, that I wasn't enjoying the process along with it. I wasn't enjoying these stepping stones and these wins.
I remember winning districts and not even smiling because I was like, "I didn't even wrestle good and I have so much more to do." I didn't even take one second to enjoy that moment. I take that now very seriously that I want to enjoy every part of the process and the journey and I'm making sure I do that. And judo, it's been a great way to go around the world competing and also meeting these other people, learning about different cultures, experience different parts of the world instead of just reading about it, all these different things. I just try to take advantage of every opportunity that's set forth.
And so tell us now, you're in the midst of getting ready for the Olympics, COVID hits, it gets postponed. So you're literally one of the Olympians that we read about that was ready to go in 2020 and now is just on hold waiting every day to make sure it's going to happen. So where are you in that process? Are you getting ready for Japan right now?
So I still have two more tournaments to go before the Paralympics. I have Turkey actually at the end of May coming up, world Championship qualifying tournament. And then one in England in June. And it's actually funny because you know how the pandemic kind of froze life? Everything kind of stopped and we didn't know what was going to happen with anything?
It made me have a realization that judo's not my life. I need to make other aspects as well. Because at any moment, judo can be taken away. What am I going to do then? And I started focusing a lot on my music during the pandemic, playing guitar, and singing at restaurants, clubs, and things outside to make a living. And the election's going on and there's all this arguing on social media, negativity. And it was really starting to get to me, like bothering me, just people fighting and why can't we post more positive things to spread around the internet.
So my fiancee and I were sitting around. I just wanted to any mark I could on this time I could put in a positive way. So I saw that my music was making people smile. So we decided, since she works in tech remotely, that we just got in the car and planned a 10,000 mile, seven-week cross-country road trip where we live-streamed me playing music in front of beautiful places across the country to try and just spread positivity through everyone's social feed and really just create more of a chain-reaction of that. And it was really awesome and it helped me learn a lot in this time.
You drove a ton of miles and where do people watch those videos of you playing at those different locations?
They're on my YouTube and there's some posts on my Instagram. But you can find it all on asfvision.com, all my links there.
And then what's that like? Because I have a sighted wife, you have a sighted fiancee. How did you guys meet and what's the dynamic there? Even at 52, you're thinking, you meet sighted people. What's the dynamic there? They have to drive, she tandems, she pilots the tandem bike. They have to be kind of game-on, right?
Yeah, she's amazing. She's like a bulldog. She gets things done. She's sees things, she's able to visualize things and help me execute certain things. And the way we met was through my best friend growing up has a kid with her sister now. I got introduced to her when I had just gotten back from Tokyo and she had just gotten back from Thailand traveling the world and I was at a training center doing judo. And we met at his house and kind of just hit it off right there. I was like, "Who is this girl? Why was she in Thailand? She's so interesting." Blah, blah, blah.
And we kind of just kept in contact. And I asked her to be my date to my first ever film premier in New York City.
Good move. Wow, that's smooth.
I was like, "Here, you can learn all about my life and meet all my family at once." I remember saying, "I want to take someone to this film that nobody knows." And I was like, "She's amazing, I want to ask her." Ad I asked her sister to give me her number and stuff. And I asked her and then we both did some traveling around the world on our own at the time and still stayed in touch, and then reconnected, and then started doing it all together and just fell in love. It just all happened after that.
And our dynamic's amazing. She's really funny. She picks up on things now too where she's the eyes obviously in the relationship and she paints the world for me in ways that I can visualize it. And she became so keen on my sense of hearing and things like that that she'll see me almost make a twitch and then she'll close her eyes and listen for what I'm listening for and then tell me what it is. It's amazing.
Does she ever struggle with the relationship? Because I know my wife, I remember going to a restaurant one time and this guy was like, "Oh my gosh, you're blind. I'm giving you my eyes, my friend. I would literally, if there was a surgery, I'd give you my eyes." Takes my order and leaves and totally forgets to take my wife's order. Sometimes the sighted person in the relationship's a bit invisible.
I think that does happen sometimes definitely. But there's more in our relationship actually where people will look to her to ask the question they're trying to ask me. Like, "Is he okay with stairs?" I'm like, "I'm right here, I'm good." "I don't know, ask him." So it's more like that dynamic I think she has to deal with.
And Anthony, you have this amazing social following on TikTok and Instagram and it's growing every day and you're one of those success stories. They call them influencers now. But there's also kind of a fickle and sometimes brutal side of social media. There's all this opportunity to reach people, but it can also be a struggle. Can you talk about that dynamic of where you see the opportunity there as well as what the struggle is?
I definitely see a lot of opportunity obviously to tell my story, reach more people to try and promote more positive things in this world and things like that. But one of the struggles too is I think a big thing is dealing with this almost imposter syndrome, this self-worth feeling of why are people caring so much about my life and what I'm doing and being so inspired and things and trying to keep going, just keep doing what you're doing.
Like you're your own worse critic kind of idea.
Exactly. Just like I was my worse enemy in wrestling and everything.
Yeah, I think it's so interesting because you see folks who really make it and you're on that trajectory and you don't kind of think about that struggle they have too. Is it worth people's ears to listen to what I have to say? And clearly right now you are. And so can you remind our listeners where we can follow you on TikTok and on Instagram?
Yeah, so ASFvision is all my handles. It's adfvision.com is my website and you can find everything there the link to my film, the link to YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, everything.
And be prepared to both laugh and cry and learn a lot too in the process because I think whether it's the movie or the TikTok, it's very entertaining, but very educational and inspirational at times, sad at times as well.
And the soundtrack is awesome because most people probably wouldn't even know this Anthony, but I totally knew that soundtrack. That was a song from Vision Quest. Vision Quest. Nobody even remembers this movie, but it was like this eighties powerhouse movie about wrestling. It was the Rocky Balboa of wrestling. So I remembered that song that you played.
That song is monumental to that film. Chris, the director, was through the moon when he got his manager to sign off on it for literally pennies on the dollar to basically donate to this film. All he asked was please put a picture of Jeff Healey at the end. Jeff Healey is this amazing blind guitarist who passed away. And I was like, "Absolutely, I love Jeff Healey." It was just this incredible moment where we got so excited.
Anthony, I'm curious about your mentors. Because okay, you had these doors closed in your face. But you also had this guy, Mike, who was like your coach at the club team. Dad calls him up and says, "Hey, my son wants to wrestle and he's really committed and he's visually impaired." And the guy's like, "Great. Awesome." You must have a lot of mentors of that kind. I bet you even at judo. What's the guy's name that was trying to compete in the Paralympics as well as the regular Olympics and he was a blind judo athlete? I don't know. So talk about your mentors.
First of all, my parents were huge mentors because they kind of paved the way for my independence and just gave me the tools in life to be able to do the things I'm able to do. And I really just think it started off, my brother's a huge mentor like I said, just watching him do everything he did. Mike, he took me from this little chubby kid and just little visually impaired kid to just having this confidence, being motivated, being in shape, working towards something, these goals, and just showing me you can do these things too.
And in my senior year, I did an article for ESPN. And I just talked about being a wrestler and post-career. And Erik's dad saw it and reached out to my mom. And I remember reading Erik's book when I was seven or eight, no, nine or ten actually. And I was at St Lucy's and they gave it out in cassette tapes. And I remember listening to that book every night. And it was before, you can't absorb everything at that age, so I just remember thinking this guy's awesome. He freaking climbed Mount Everest.
And then your dad reached out to my mom and asked me if I'd consider doing the Peru trek, where we went on the Lares Trek and did all those things. And they had given me your book again, and I read it again at that age, and I remember it resonating so much more with me, learning that it was okay to ask for help. Even in those parts of the book, seeing your dad spray paint the ramp for you. We did the same kind of stuff, it was so you could find the ramp while you still had the little vision you could.
I remember being like, "This guy's blind. He's doing things too. It's going to be okay.@ And I think the first time learning about another blind guy who was older than me and actually living life and doing pretty cool things. And listen, cool doesn't have to be all these insane things. Like someone that knits awesome sweaters, power to, that's freaking awesome. I can't do that.
And learning that it's been done before and there's this road, you paved this way. And it was this huge monumental awakening for me that I've just got to keep going. The treks that I was able to go on, like Peru and then the Grand Canyon. They gave us an opportunity in the Grand Canyon when we were rafting. They were like, "Does anyone want to swim through a rapid?" And I was like, "Yes, yes, yes." And then I literally swam the rapid. And I remember being thrown around, pulled under, your world tossed around. You have no idea where you are. When you come up, you don't know which way's which.
And after that, I remember being like life's not so bad if I can get through that. I just got through a rapid and I'm still breathing. I can get through this test in school. I can get through this little obstacle in my life. It's going to be okay. I remember trailing walls in Peru where I'm like, "I shouldn't make a wrong fall right here. Fall left." Life's okay. If I can do these things, then I'm going to get through the little obstacles.
Nice, thank you. Dave, you noticed how I asked him about mentors and then I got your $50, Anthony.
Exactly. I saw that backdoor there. Feel like we were all prepared for that.
That was good. I'm an expert interviewer.
I'm really not just saying that to kiss up. Erik, literally you're like a superhero in my eyes. Just like a real guy, that's what the coolest thing is.
Circling back to the broken down gray-breaded superhero.
Anthony, to your credit too, with your huge following now and all the things you're doing, you're providing that sort of inspiration to the next generation just as Erik provided it to you. And I think that's the power of today's world where you just have such a great voice out there that, as you said, is a voice of positivity and hopefulness. And you've got to expect that you're touching folks in very special ways that may look back to you as their inspiration.
Absolutely. And I appreciate that because one of those things we were talking about, that self-worth feeling earlier, and sometimes I'll be feeling that and then I'll get a message, "Hey, I just want you to know I'm blind and I just watched your movie with my family and I convinced my boyfriend and my family to start letting my try skateboarding. Thank you so much. You inspire me." It was just so cool. People just living their life and getting those messages like that just kind of keep you going and make you realize I'm doing the right thing.
And back to the mentor discussion, one of the things I noticed about you and this short conversation is that you have such appreciation and gratitude for all the good things that come into your life. So that really I think in a way attracts people. It attracts people like Mike or like coaches to say I want to work with this guy. I loved Mike's comment, "I'd rather work with a blind wrestler than an unmotivated wrestler." That guy's so powerful and honest. I think you attract people like that into your life because of your attitude.
Thank you, Erik. That means a lot. I can only hope to. I'm only so grateful of these good moments because of those bad moments. I know that there's those bad moments so when these good moments come, you have to embrace them and really live in them and be grateful every time they come.
This episode is releasing at the time of the upcoming Olympics. We've heard that you've got a couple of trials to go through. Should we expect to see you and be able to watch you in the Olympics? Is that the plan?
That is the plan. That's the plan. Paralympics and judo at 73 kilograms.
73 kilograms, okay. So we'll be on the look out for you. Thank you so much, Anthony, for sharing your story with us and for being an inspiration and an educational resource for all those out there through your different channels. And for those of you listening, as always, we'll put our show notes out there for you so can follow the links to learn more about Anthony and his story.
And of course, check out A Shot In The Dark on Amazon, an amazing award-winning film. It's such a great inspiration to watch.
And then like all us dumb Americans, go out and translate 73 kilos into pounds. I think it's like 150, 160 pounds, right?
Exactly. Thank you, Anthony, and thank you, Erik.
Thank you so much.
All right. No barriers to everyone.
We would like to thank our generous sponsors that make our No Barriers podcast possible: Wells Fargo, Prudential, CoBank, Arrow Electronics, and Winnebago. Thank you so much for your support. It means everything to us. The production team behind this podcast includes senior producer Pauline Schaffer, sound design, editing and mixing by Tyler Cottman, and then marketing support Heather Zoccali, Stevie Dinardo, Erica Hoey, and Alex Schaffer. Special thanks to The Dan Ryan Band for our intro song, Guidance. And thanks to all of you for listening. If you enjoy this podcast, we encourage you to subscribe to it, share it, and give us a review. Show notes can be found at nobarrierspodcast.com.