See With Your Tongue: A Not Impossible Story

Blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer shows us a new way to look at the world.

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Welcome to Not Impossible Stories, a 10-part miniseries that makes the impossible not impossible. 

Founder and CEO Mick Ebeling and the team at Not Impossible Labs are dedicated to changing the world through technology and story and have teamed up with Thrive Global to share stories some of the most amazing examples of technology that seeks to make the impossible… not impossible.

Erik Weihenmayer accomplished something many of us cannot even fathom: climbing to the summit of Mount Everest. Erik not only scaled the highest peak on the planet, he did so despite an obstacle no one who had done so before had to overcome. Erik Weihenmayer is blind.

Founder and CEO Mick Ebeling and the team at Not Impossible Labs are dedicated to changing the world through technology and story. They’ve teamed up with Thrive Global to share amazing examples of technology that seeks to make the impossible… not impossible.

Erik Weihenmayer’s story is a story of doing the impossible. Not only has Erik conquered Everest, he has skydived, run marathons, and skied down treacherous mountains. One of his most unbelievable feats, however, takes place within his own head thanks to the BrainPort.

The BrainPort is a piece of wearable technology developed by Wicab in collaboration with the National Institute of Health. It takes visual information captured via a camera and translates it into a series of tactile dots expressed on a small disc that is placed in the mouth. Thanks to the incredible plasticity of the brain the feeling of these dots can allow the blind to see… with their tongue (yes, tongue!). The BrainPort allows Erik see the world in a way that is hard for those of us with our vision intact to imagine.

With BrainPort, Erik can experience moments and interactions that we take for granted every single day.

“What people think about blindness, ‘oh you can’t see, so you’re in darkness,’ well that you get used to,” says Erik. “But what you really lose out on are those connections with the world. Those ways you interact with people in subtle, beautiful ways.”

Erik’s most notable experience of reconnection with the world facilitated by the BrainPort is the chance to play a game of tic-tac-toe with his children and ‘see’ the smiles on their faces.

Erik’s story is one of motivation and determination. Speaking all over the world, Erik inspires others to overcome obstacles in their own lives in order to live a life with no barriers.

“There are days as a blind person where you trip over the thing that’s in front of you,” Erik says. “Or you bang your head against the wall, literally, and you are really frustrated. You have that choice whether life is this nightmare or whether its an exciting adventure. You got to just be able to see it as that adventure”

Q&A with Mick Ebeling, Founder and CEO of  Not Impossible Labs:

Q: What wisdom have you learned from Erik that you use in your daily life?

ME: My uncle had a saying that he told me once. He was literally lying on his deathbed and I said, “Uncle Jim, I’m so sorry.” He replied, “Don’t feel sorry for me. If everybody took the crosses that they bore and they threw them out in to the middle of the street so everybody could see everybody else’s crosses, once you saw how difficult everybody else’s situation was, you would rush out as quickly as you could and pick up yours before anybody else could.”

One of the things that I’ve learned from Erik is that sometimes as humans we start to feel sorry for ourselves. We start to think about like, ‘oh we have it so hard.’ Then you see someone like Erik who’s just a total badass. He’s out there scaling mountains, doing things that are just truly remarkable. Oh, by the way he’s blind. That’s kind of the way that he sees it. Erik for me is this benchmark of truly just doing it. He is the embodiment of the just do it mentality. He doesn’t let anything stand in his way.

Q: Where do you find adventure in your life?

ME: I find adventure in my life every single day. Mainly from all the crazy and really preposterous things that we’re doing and trying to do at Not Impossible. I find those to be incredibly adventurous. Also, I find a lot of adventure in trying to keep up with three energetic little boys. I feel so blessed in my life that I feel like life is an adventure. I just try to smile and throw my hands up on the roller coaster as we go.

Q: How important is adventure to your well-being?

ME: Adventure can be found in the little things that you do. On a grander scale, I kitesurf, I surf, I skateboard and I snowboard. When you feel like you’re pushing yourself to the edge in some capacity and you’re scared, that’s a really important way to living your life. There’s a chapter in my book that’s called Scare Yourself Daily and I really truly believe that. If you’re scaring yourself you’re in the right place because it means you’re pushing yourself.

Q: How do you think Erik’s story can help people examine and change their own lives?

ME: It’s perspective. When you look at your own life people tend to default to, and rightfully so, a narcissistic outlook on life because we are our own selves that we see through our own eyes. We see and experience life’s highs and lows through our own experience. So we only know life as a relative comparison to what we think other people’s lives are like. If you are constantly checking yourself and living in this humble state of mind that your situation isn’t the worst situation or the hardest situation, then I think it changes your perspective. We should all see life, and the obstacles that we run into, as opportunities.

To learn more about Erik Weihenmayer’s story and the technology that is allowing Erik to do the impossible, listen to the pilot episode of the Not Impossible podcast.

Visit us again next week for another story that challenges you to do more than just live, but to Thrive!

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