One of my favorite quotes by Tom Landry states, “A coach is someone who tells you what you don't want to hear, who has you see what you don't want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be." For me, when I have experienced those coaches ultimately the gift they gave me was a powerful shift from old, limiting thoughts and beliefs, to new, transformational, empowering thoughts that give me confidence and hope.
When I first heard about the 2012 Soldiers to summits opportunity I was filled with the dichotomous emotions of excitement and fear. I knew it could be an extremely powerful experience while I simultaneously also knew it would be extremely challenging and push me beyond my comfort zone in true coaching style.
Once I was accepted to the program the coaching instantly began. Not only from the S2S staff, but also the mountains themselves.
I quickly learned that the training to climb the mountain and the mountain itself are two very different coaches with the same intent to do whatever it takes to help you reach your own summits as you strive to reach, THE ultimate summit. I often ask myself, what is the ultimate summit? How do I individually define my ultimate summit?
These “coaches” are very serious. They do not tread lightly which forces one to not only be brutally honest, but also brings one’s fear, internal voices, self-doubts, and previously unrecognized thoughts and beliefs to the forefront.
Throughout my 2012 Cotopaxi experience I remember consistently realizing that even the smallest event was a learning experience teaching me that mountain climbing is such a powerful metaphor of life.
One of the first lessons the mountain climbing taught me was the importance of choosing the right equipment. I believe this is analogous with life in that choosing the right mindset will not only enable us to navigate the most difficult times, but also is extremely important. Many sources such as Esther Hicks, Wayne Dior,DR, Joe Vitale, Positive Psychology, the medical field, quantum physics, and I don’t think I am speaking out of place to say No Barriers, would conceptualize that choosing the right mindsets might be the most important thing we can do in order to live an energized blissful life.
When I analyze the Success of No Barriers, the people they are surrounded by, often asking myself, why it works, this is the answer I find. Whether it be NO Barriers, Eric Weihenmeyer, Charley Mace, Jeff Evans, Jr Martinez, Nick, as well as many of the veterans I had the privilege to climb with, the veterans who are here today, Memmy, and each one of you here, have made not only a choice, but also a commitment. . Because you have chosen self-actualizing mindsets, no matter what challenges life gives you, no matter how high the mountain, or what the disability is, you have the utmost confidence you can reach any summit. You firmly believe, “what’s within you IS stronger then what’s in your way.”
As I carefully chose which backpack to purchase with the consideration of comfort, ease of access, and how much it could carry I felt that this was similar to life in which one hopes to be comfortable with what they carry, hopes to have access to the right strategies and mindsets, fully assured this will propel each one of us to the glorious views on each summit which awaits us.
When I was given the goggles which are shatterproof and keep the rain, snow, and ice out of the eyes, I smiled once again seeing the analogical similarities to life. I thought about how essential it is to wear life goggles which allow us to still see clearly, maintaining our goals and direction when life throws the snow, rain, and ice at us. We find joyous freedom from all the outside increment weather as we only focus within.
While purchasing the outerwear which would keep me dry and warm in the freezing temperatures, howling wind, and rain, the equivalence of that clothing to life’s clothing was again very relevant. As we all climb life's mountains amongst the driving rain, snow, and blistering storms, it is essential that we choose the resources and the right rope team, whether that be friends, professionals, or self-improvement tools, which will shelter us, keep us warm and dry on the inside, allowing us to fulfill our life's directions no matter how horrific the storm.
The helmet I chose was significant. Much like life, even if one endures the feelings of coldness, tiredness, and hunger while climbing the mountain, as long as the ability to think is protected and present we can still reach our personal summits, regardless of the sensations and emotions we feel. The probability of reaching our goals is high despite the effect of everything around us making us think we are going to fall, die, slip beyond no return, or give up. When we make the decision to carefully choose a positive mindset it gives us the confidence to plow through life's most difficult challenges.
While climbing Mount Cotopaxi for nine grueling hours through temperatures varying from -20 to 90, often changing by the minute, I knew the mountain was coaching me in another important life lesson. If I did not quickly adapt to the changing weather it could significantly cost me, even to the point of death, especially if hypothermia set in. This also like life in that the ability to quickly adapt to different environments, knowing what to put on and what to take off is crucial.
As I climbed the mountain often slipping and falling I initially felt the fear and concern that I would possibly fall into a crevasse or off the side of the mountain which could cost me my life. That fear quickly turned to confidence and joy, due to the fact I was attached to a rope and my rope team. Despite falling frequently, much to the chagrin of my rope team, I only slid so far before they pulled me back to my feet. Once again the mountain coaching was teaching me a life lesson. If I am securely anchored to my life rope and support systems I can only fall so far before I am able to grab on to that rope which allows me to avoid life's pitfalls, and continue my journey. Consequently, I feel encouraged, confident, peaceful, and jubilant, as I overcome my fear of death or failure, choosing to simply focus on the summit in front of me.
With the help of my team and putting one foot in front of the other, thinking about what the reaching the summit would feel like and give me, wondering if this,(expletive left out) mountain would ever end, I reached the summit of that 19,700 foot mountain. I still remember the exhilaration, confidence gained, incredible sense of fulfillment, and tears of joy. I felt such amazing connection with the team around me. I was the weakest link on our team. Yet, each member of the team made individual and collective sacrifices, with no complaint, and helped me reach the top. WOW..
Despite wanting to stay and Basque in these powerful moments the realization suddenly hit me that due to the changing weather these moments of celebration had to be short lived as we had to start the trek down the mountain in order to avoid a potential landslide. The mountain coach again pulled my mind into the huddle showing me how this was equivalent to other aspects of life where reaching personal summits brings significant fulfillment and happiness, however, if we don’t come down off those summits and start to climb other mountains the summit we stay on could be our last.
A few years ago, 3 time super bowl MVP Tom Brady, was asked which super bowl was his favorite one to which he quickly replied, “the next one.”
Every day as I face life's storms and adversities, what the mountain coach taught me, and helped me achieve, propels me to keep climbing and reaching more summits no matter how difficult the challenges might be. Soldiers to Summits gave me a life changing experience which still coaches me every day. My deepest desire is for other veterans to get to learn from that same coach and win the super bowls I got to win.
You might ask, ok it seems that you had a great experience and it worked for you, but, what is the probability that NO Barriers will be able to reproduce that on a consistent basis. After serious questioning and consideration this is my rational. NO Barriers, and the mindsets they embody, is not just a woo hoo, pie in the sky, sounds great, but not easily replicated, organization. Numerous new studies, scientific and empirical evidence, is now becoming more prominent in academia, the mental health field, the medical filed, in addition to numerous other venues, which shows that choosing our thoughts, placing our focus within, as opposed placing our attention on outward circumstances has numerous benefits which elevate humanity to new levels. I believe this is why NO Barriers is unfailingly successful, empowered countless individuals, and will unswervingly continue their track record for years to come.
Each one of you has, and can continue to help numerous other individuals not only learn from the same phenomenal coaches I learned from, You can also receive tremendous fulfillment knowing you afford them the opportunity to achieve the same, new level of confidence, peace, hope, and joy which new mindsets create. You can enable them to feel the same sense of inner peace I now have no matter what is going on around me.
When you support NO Barriers, you don’t just support individuals climbing mountains, ultimately you become a catalyst, unlocking lifelong potential for a vibrant life of wellbeing. Thank you.
Recently, at the Summit, in Park City, Utah, I was deeply honored when Ed Weihenmeyer stated, “Matt really embodies what we want to see at NO Barriers.” Without taking up your valuable time relaying the details, I can tell you that I am fully confident that Freedom Fido’s would not be where we are today without the empowering, life changing, experience I had with Soldiers to Summits. I don’t say this as a shameless plug for my organization as I am here simply to be a representative of NO Barriers. Freedom Fido’s has witnessed numerous incredible life changing testimonies from our veterans and special needs children. We are part of the circle that keeps giving, keeps empowering individuals, who then give to more individuals. That’s extremely fulfilling for me. NO Barriers was one of the biggest catalysts which enabled me to have this sense of fulfillment. I hope you will enable others to receive this amazing gift. Please help them uncover previously hidden potential. Please help them bounce back from adversity as they become, totally unleashed with the ability to reach new summits.
Thank you for being here. Thank you for your dedication as a result of your time and resources which will significantly change the lives and outcomes of my fellow veterans, enabling them to become what they have always known they can be.