Fitness Resolutions with Vision Loss

Motivational speaker and adventurer Randy Pierce shared his story and goal-setting tips to start the new year off right. Randy unexpectedly lost his vision at age 22, but didn't let that slow him down from enjoying sports, running marathons, and climbing mountains.

January 7, 2020

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Audio Transcript


Get Up and Go – Fitness Resolution with Vision Loss

Presented by Elyse Heinrich and Steve Kelley

January 7, 2020

Elyse H: Welcome, everyone, to the Hadley discussion group or Get Up and Go. Happy New Year. My name's Elyse. Tonight, I'm co-hosting with Steve. Our topic is getting restarted and fitness resolutions with Randy Pierce. Steve, would you like to say hello?

Steve K: Hey, everybody and Happy New Year. I'm just delighted to be here and delighted to see everyone.

Elyse H: For sure. Thanks for joining. Hadley has a new Facebook page for the Get Up and Go participants. Well, for any-

Steve K: Yay Facebook.

Elyse H: For anybody really, but if you really want to hone in on the recreation and leisure topic and community, there's a page for you. If you search Hadley Get Up and Go, it's an open group. You just can ask to join. There's not any question or any secret code you need. We'll be happy to have people join in and use that as a discussion forum as well.

Steve K: We are absolutely delighted this evening to have Randy Pierce join us. Randy is the president of 2020 Vision Quest, a nonprofit he started with the goal of raising funds for guide dog training, blindness services, and teaching young people about ability awareness. As many of you know, he is a mountain climber who summited Mount Kilimanjaro, Machu Picchu, and all of New Hampshire's White Mountain peaks. He completed the Boston Marathon several times and completes in the Tough Mudder endurance competitions. Randy is also an author and motivational speaker. His book, See You at the Summit, is available on Amazon and Audible. Perhaps more importantly for our group tonight, Randy is no stranger to getting back up, getting restarted again, and making resolutions to stay on track and lead by example. It is with great pleasure that I turn the microphone over to Randy Pierce. Randy, thanks for joining us tonight.

Randy Pierce: Well, thank you, Steve and everyone. Happy 2020, everyone. It's an honor to be here. It's great to be here. I'm looking forward to sharing a fair bit and, hopefully, interactively, we'll have a chance to explore some of your questions and comments. I hope to learn a little as well as maybe share some of what I've learned in my experiences going through.

I guess I've got a few minutes here to give a little background into the journey I took and how it is that I take this path of getting up and moving towards the various goals and directions of activity, and fitness, and engagement in life. One of the first things I want to share is that when I started out life, I was fully sighted. When that journey changed for me at the age of 22 into one that had a significant sight loss component... So, what happened for me is in the span of just two weeks at the age of 22, I lost all of the sight in my right eye and about 50% in my left eye due to a neurological disorder. My optic nerve died that they, at the time, didn't understand. But since we have learned that I have a unique mitochondrial disease, so it attacks my nerves, and my optic nerves were just the first to be attacked.

I spent 11 years legally blind with that little bit of vision in my left eye slowly closing in. In the year 2000, I went totally blind or I like to joke sometimes that I've gone illegally blind now. That transition to total blindness wasn't as hard as that first transition because going blind, in my opinion, is harder than being blind depending on the choices you make along the way. My first choices really weren't the best because it was hard. I was frustrated. I was angry a little bit about why this happened to me. What I really felt is that I would never do anything fun or meaningful again. As long as I had that mindset, that's exactly what was happening in my world.

The good news for me is that I had a little bit of encouragement from a lot of different sources and I had a little bit of life experience that helped shake me from that mindset and started me on the path of saying not I can't, but how can I do all the things that I might want to do along the way? Which obviously starts with the basics that many of us might go through, but it's advanced to doing all of the bigger dreams, some bigger than I ever had before I lost my sight. That's the marvelous part of that. The reality in my world is that while I certainly do wish that I could see, I am absolutely pleased on the journey I took including the sight loss because that journey has brought me the experiences, and the connections, and the approach that lets me have the fulfilling life I have today.

All that said, even still today, I sometimes go through the periods of frustration and challenge that I have to remind myself about all those lessons that I learned along the way to make sure that I can keep up every day, and get going, and move towards the directions I want. I sometimes joke that I get up some mornings and I'm like, "Come on. Blind again today. Really?" But the reality for us is we're all going to hit some kind of challenge. And for me, blindness usually isn't the biggest of those challenges. It's just one of them on the list, and the challenge is how am I going to respond to those things. That's the message that I think was the key for me back then and it is the key for any of us now is that whatever our individual challenge is that's maybe inhibiting us from getting up to go, whether it's motivation, whether it's some actual limitation that we have to explore, it's our mindset that will get us there. When we're willing to start saying, "I need to find the path. My response to this is going to be more important than whatever this challenge is." That's what I ultimately believe.

In my journey, the first steps, there was a sight agency in New Hampshire, where I live. They were called New Hampshire Association for the Blind. They now call themselves Future in Sight. I have worked with that organization. I've been chairman of their board in the fairly recent past. I'm a big believer in giving back to the organizations that help you, but in my early steps, they taught me the cane, and the cooking, and all of those simple things, but they started me on that journey. As somebody who started going blind at 22, I had been very engaged in lots of things in life. I had played every sport through school. I played in band as a drummer, in chorus, in drama club. I love to be engaged and involved in life because I think when we're involved and engaged, the rewards that we'll find are many.

I like to tell people there's four things that I almost constantly learn and receive when I was a student and even today. The first is I learned what's fun for me and enjoyment is always going to be important in our world because it's what refreshes us. It recharges us, and it's also a good motivation to put our time behind the things that we do enjoy when we want to spend our time doing things that are a positive for us when we can. Knowing what those are is important.

The second thing I learned is by being engaged and involved, we learn what we're good at. The ability to play to our strengths can help us be more successful and happy. We learn what we need to work on, which by doing that, we get to understand the notion of practice. I don't ascribe to this theory that practice makes perfect because I don't know what perfect looks like. That has nothing to do with my blindness and everything to do with the fact that it's hard to measure perfect. I do ascribe to the theory that practice makes progress, and the more we work at anything we do, the better we'll get at that. It may be slow, but we can celebrate and measure every bit of progress that we get as long as we're attentive to it. So first, I learned what's fun. Second, I learned where my strengths and weakness are.

The third thing I learned is I learned how to work others. Before I went blind, I thought that was a simple lesson, but after I went blind, I learned how important that would become because for a lot of people... I have plenty of friends who are sight-impaired. I have even more that aren't, and they don't know how to work with me. The more I can help them learn that process in a positive way, the more I develop people who are part of my team. And the stronger and better our teams are, the more that we can accomplish because I really think team is an acronym. T-E-A-M, together everyone achieves more. That's true when you learn to work together well. When you get in each other's way, obviously, it can be kind of frustrating, and you can get tempted to fall into this trap of maybe I'd be better off doing it on my own. I think the better approach is maybe I'd be better practicing the skills of working together better.

That's the fourth and final thing is not just learning how to work with others but learning how to truly help others work with ourselves, work with us because that is a skill in and of itself. The corollary is learning how to be more open to others' needs as well at the same time because that kind of came hand-in-hand. Just a really simple example of how I can do that is I got on a bus here in Nashville where I live, using my cane before I used the guide dog that I use now more commonly. As I passed the driver with my cane, I stopped and asked if anybody was sitting there. Getting no response, I turned and sat my 6′4″, 200-pound body down onto this poor woman's lap. I share that because, obviously, I don't think that's what she wanted. Maybe. I don't know. Maybe it was a secret message to me. Obviously, I was embarrassed. I got up. I said, "I'm sorry. Did you hear me ask?" I was honestly frustrated at that moment because I assumed she could have heard me, and she should have answered me. Maybe she head-nodded or something.

What she said to me surprised be a little. She said, "I did. I'm sorry. I didn't know how to respond to a blind man." I was still frustrated by her answer, but I realized she meant it. That she really probably didn't want me to sit on her because I was considerably larger, and that what I had to consider is how can I change my approach to make us a better team, even the us that is a stranger I don't know yet. How could I change my language to make it more clear what I need to say things like, "Excuse me? I'm totally blind, so I'm going to need you to answer me out loud. Is anyone sitting here?" Those little changes are saying I can take some accountability into the interactions I have to build my teams. I do these things in all the world I go. That has helped me build better teams, which is a large part of how I do the things I do. All of those things were the base to starting into my world of saying, "What can I do?"

So now what do I do in the world of Get Up and Go, right? It's New Year's. A lot of people are making resolutions. I'm just starting my own training regimen because I do a lot of things, and I had to take the month of December off because I had bronchitis, and I had a 28-day cycle of it, which is pretty rough. So, I have to start my training in small steps. I had to start with the notion of when you're not well enough, be smart enough to give your body what it needs, whether that's rest, whether that's nutrition, but you've got to find where your base is. When your base isn't healthy enough, you can't try to do the things you shouldn't do. December 8th, I had gone out to California to run in the United States Association of Blind Athletes Marathon Championship. They have a national championship. That's where I had the sickness. I come back and I feel as somebody who's running a marathon, I got to be able to go out and run a couple of miles pretty easy. The truth is my lungs and my body aren't ready. If I try to force that, I'll set myself back.

Now, I say this like I've got this great wisdom, but I came back in on December 15th. I did exactly what I shouldn't do. I went out and tried to run because I wanted to get back and ready too quick. That's why I got bronchitis twice because I didn't let my body have enough time to recover. I want to caution people to really understand where you are and understand that big goals are great, but big goals are accomplished by setting small stepping goals towards them, whatever they may be. After knowing that, I like to remind people of a quote that I use from one of the winningest basketball coaches in college history. He was a teacher first. His name was John Wooden. He took this quote from Ben Franklin. He used to say, "We don't plan to fail. We fail to plan."

That's why Hadley Get Up and Go has this notion, and I'm sort of going to wrap up and switch to questioning point after this, but the notion is with whatever you want to do, you really want to have a plan for getting yourself there. Because goals, and wishes, and dreams are great, but the best method to get to any of them is to try to find a way to learn how to get there and to build a plan for it. It all comes right back to that first question of when I made that transition to blindness is not, I can't do these things, but how can I do them. That's what you have to ask with these plans. The fortunate part is there's tons of resources for all of the things you want to do. It's all about problem-solving. The real challenge is to figure out what is it that you want to accomplish and then who are the right guides to help you figure that out. That said, I certainly can personalize a lot more, but we have time, and I'd like to let your questions, comments maybe guide a little bit of those aspects a little more.

Steve K: Randy, thank you so much for that. I think one of the things that really resonated with me a lot was just that whole notion of a mind shift that you were talking about where you just changed your perspective a bit. The other thing that I heard quite a bit was listening and planning, stepping back, not jumping in even though you might want to.

Randy Pierce: Yeah. I think one of the things that happens all the time at the first of the year is that people say, "That's it. I'm going to start my plan. I'm going to go to the gym seven days a week. I'm going to do these five exercises every day." Then the problem with that is what often happens is if you add 10 things all at once and it overwhelms you because it's too much for your schedule, too much for you, you tend to quit it. You quit all 10 things at once. I love the notion of I'm going to add this this week. And how did that go? If it goes well, and I can do more, I'm going to add something else to that because if that goes well, I can keep it. If I hit a point where I'm starting to add too much, I don't take them all away. I take away the last thing I added that maybe was too much.

Steve K: Yeah. I wonder if there's anybody else out there who's actually undertaken a little bit too much, particularly now when this is the time of year when we have all these resolutions that we're going to accomplish, and we're going to accomplish them the first two weeks of January rather than spreading it over the year, right? We've got a couple of questions from folks on SurveyMonkey. Before we open it up, I thought if you don't mind, Elyse, I would just jump in with one of these first questions. It's a toughie, so it's a good way to start.

Elyse H: Yeah, that sounds good, Steve.

Steve K: Okay. The writer says, "I must say when I read about these interesting blind people, I can't relate to that well. I can't imagine how they get people to back them when I'm doing good to get the sometimes ride to church or to the store and don't have the stamina to climb anything." She makes reference to super-achieving blind people. So I wanted to toss that out on the table, Randy. I guess she might consider somebody like you a super-achieving blind person.

Randy Pierce: Yeah. I certainly heard the term before. Jonathan Mosen, a few years ago, wrote an article. Jonathan Mosen's a wonderful blind and deaf radio personality. He's done a lot of great things in his lifetime, first blind radio person in our world, but he wrote an article about the super blind because it's a term that he doesn't particularly prefer, but he wanted to get to a point of this notion. If you high achieve in the regular world, they call you a high achiever. There's some people who think a little bit are uncomfortable or intimidated by that, but the truth is most of us have many moments of weakness, and failure, and struggle along with the various triumphs. Those just aren't always necessarily on the display. We didn't reach any point of triumph with our first attempt. It's usually something that we built towards and because we had a particular passion to.

I generally find that every single person I've ever spoken to has something interesting about their life and something worthwhile. The challenge sometimes is figuring out what that is. Some people are more willing to share it. Some people are less comfortable sharing it. I've certainly chosen a very public sharing of the various things that I undertake. I do them because they add value to my world. I share them because it helps me make a positive difference in our world, but I don't think of myself as somebody who's achieved any more than of us can do if we are, excuse me, passionate about it in whatever our particular goal is, and are willing to take the determination to work through it. I think it's important to always realize that even in those moments, we all struggle.

I have days that the ride to the store isn't something I coordinate easy, but I have done building blocks to get ready for that. Part of that comes into the team-building. One of the awkward or perhaps harsh, candid parts of the consideration here is that how we build our teams or how we potentially risk alienating any of our team is an important part of this consideration. When I very first went blind, many people would want to offer me help in various ways, and I was awkward in how I handled them. Sometimes even, in my opinion, inappropriate in how I handled them because they'd do something maybe a little inappropriate in how they'd make an offer because it would come from a place of seeming pity, and I didn't want pity. So I'd maybe be a little bit harsh in my rejection or maybe I'd be a little bit stubborn in some of the approaches or maybe they'd want to guide me, so they'd grab my arm and pull me.

Obviously, that happens to many of us where somebody does something wrong. Then there's a moment of educational opportunity. If we take the wrong approach, it's very easy to alienate that person. Then the message they take away is that, ooh, I didn't do something that was helpful, even though that was my intent, and I need to learn how to do it differently. They take away the message that, wow, they're kind of sensitive and cranky. I don't really want to spend much time with them. I certainly know that in my first six months of blindness, I was that kind of cranky, nobody wanted to spend time with me in general because I was angry at life. I had to get over that before I could start building teams. The better I polished all of those processes, the easier it became to build a support team.

Then I had to start problem-solving what are the ways that I can build more and more of a team to help me do these things? I've got a whole bunch of strategies depending on what each of those possibilities may be. One simple example I know we touched on it a little bit, so I want to share it, is I wanted to work out at the YMCA here in Nashua. There's a couple of hard parts about working out at YMCA for me. One, how do I get rides to it? Two, once I'm there, how do I use some of the equipment that's not accessible or how do I get through some of the workouts? One of the things I worked out is that I went to the front desk, and worked with the manager there, and said, "Sometimes you give a guest pass. I come in here with my blindness, and I can't use all of your equipment easily. It's a little awkward for me to get around. I wonder if you'd consider giving me a guest pass that I can always have every time I come." After a little discussion, they decided that'd be easier than my necessarily walking with my cane or them having to get me help if their equipment wasn't accessible.

With that, I now had a bargaining tool that I brought to other folks where I could say, "Hey. I always have a guest pass." So without having to buy a membership, I can schedule somebody who can get a workout every Monday, and somebody else who can get a workout every Tuesday or whatever. Now, I've got somebody who's not only a workout partner, but maybe also a ride to it, right? So now, I'm combining different things, and I'm trading off and adding to it at the same time. So I'll pause there. It's kind of a long answer to the question, but it encompassed a couple of things I think are valuable.

Steve K: Well, interestingly, you've answered another listener's question who responded on SurveyMonkey. It was Dale. His question was how do you cold call or request for a sighted partner in doing an exercise routine? So he said, "I'll have to start it over and I'll have to start at the lower-end of rigorous exercises. So how do I ask non-acquaintances to help?" It sounds to me like what I'm hearing is that you actually build these teams by creating win-win situations including something as simple as this.

Randy Pierce: Sure. In his situation, maybe it is a cold call. When and where you approach a cold call situation is very important, right? If I go into a gym, and there's people who are working on free weights... That's not my world but let me use that as an example. They're working hard. They may have a routine, and if I try to capture in at that point with no sight, I don't have the judgment to know where they may be and to read their body language or any of those things, so they're a high-risk environment for me of failure. But I know there's a message board there that I could put up and say, "Hey, I'm totally blind. I could really use some partnership support in this. I'm willing to help work with you to show you the things that I would need for us to work together if you're willing to work with me to help me achieve some of these goals."

I have done a similar thing in the running world on those boards, and I've gotten great responses. I use Facebook and social media, so I can do it from before I ever leave my home. I try to catch people at their comfort point because I find a lot of people are very excited to teach or work with areas that they're passionate about. People like to talk about, and share, and educate on things that they love. If you give them that opportunity in a healthy way, and you show them, hey, I'm willing to work with you on the parts that I can do to bring this, that helps. Hopefully, you bring something to the table as well, whether it's good humor, good cheer. Maybe you're going to have done a little bit of background information to know what your base plan is so that you're not expecting them to do all the work, that you're going to do some of your part too because I think that shows a little bit of commitment, which partnerships are all about.

Steve K: So in a situation like this, I'm hearing that it sounds like the first couple attempts may be a little bit challenging, but you can polish them with a little bit of practice and work at it, particularly in the situation where you got to do a cold call.

Randy Pierce: Sure. Like I said, practice makes progress in all things. You try to target your cold calls just like in the business world, right?

Steve K: Right.

Randy Pierce: Cold calls, the whole philosophy is, yeah, you may have a high rate of failure, but you're going to make so many that you'll get enough success. I prefer to try to take my cold calls and tune them by warming up who I'm targeting a little bit.

Steve K: Elyse, do we have any listeners that are chiming in or raising their hands?

Elyse H: I'll go to Jodie. Can you hear us?

Jodie: Yes. Hello. Happy New Year, everybody.

Steve K: Hey, Jodie.

Jodie: Randy, we met at Vision Weekend. I don't know if you remember me or not. I'm the martial artist that talked to you after the-

Randy Pierce: From the [inaudible] area, yes.

Jodie: ...presentation you did. Yes, thank you. The one comment that somebody made about I think almost the resentment of being "super blind" is none of us are super blind. We all are in the sense that some people climb mountains. Other people might find it difficult to climb stairs, but once they get to the top, they've hit their summit. I think people have to congratulate themselves on what they can do instead of worrying about what they can't do. I remember the first time I ever took a city bus, and I got off at my destination. It's the first time I'd traveled all by myself. I got off the bus, and it was like, "Yes. Woo hoo." I think everybody has to do that, and the next thing you know, you can be a world traveler, but there's always that first step. I think it always bothers me when people say, "Oh, well, I can't do all that stuff." They put themselves down. It's like, "No. Anything they do is an accomplishment."

Randy Pierce: Right. I absolutely agree with that. It's the whole notion of ability awareness. Summit is physical or metaphorical in that what's important to people is what I think I want them doing. When people tell me they can't, I want to know why. If they don't want to, that's fine. I don't think everybody should be climbing mountains or doing martial arts. I think people should be doing what's important to them. The challenge is understanding what they feel is preventing them. A lot of times, I hear, "Well, I can't because I'm blind." I'm like, "Well, is it the blindness that's stopping you or is it the lack of sight is preventing you from doing an aspect, and we have to find a way to work around that aspect?" I-

Jodie: When you were in a wheelchair, you probably thought, oh, there's no way I could ever do the things that you ended up doing. There was that frustration you had, and I think that's what's so admirable is that you didn't let it stop you.

Randy Pierce: You bet. For folks who don't understand that, you have a little extra insight. My condition attacks other nerves. I spent a year, eight months, and 21 days also in a wheelchair for my condition because my cerebellum, which is my balance center had been damaged. While I was there, I was taking that approach. What are the steps forward that I can make? There was a little bit of frustration and setback for me before I reminded myself of all those same things that you said right there of the, "I can't let this stop me if I want to do the things that make my life valuable to me. I have to figure out what's actually stopping me." While I was in the wheelchair, I did as much to learn how to manage the wheelchair and make enjoyment from that time period, and I was certainly successful there, but I also put a fair bit of effort to saying, "What are the things that I might be able to do to learn how to get my body out of the wheelchair? What's causing me to be in here? What are the techniques that might get me out?" It was a long process. It took us about six months of that one year, eight months, and 21 days to really figure out what was wrong. Then, obviously, a year and three months of hard work to get me out of the wheelchair. I would have never guessed I'm doing the things I'm doing now, but one step at a time.

Elyse H: Thanks, Jodie, for your comment. What I was going to ask before, I know you talked a little bit, Randy, about before you had lost your sight, you were interested in a lot of spots and had done many of those, but I guess after losing them, how did you become interested in some of the sports you do or can you expand a little bit on what your forte is?

Randy Pierce: Sure.

Elyse H: Did you have a friend or mentor? How did you get involved with some of these?

Randy Pierce: The wheelchair's the route into probably one of the biggest sports, at least the one that people first start to think of me from, and that's the hiking world. When you can't walk, you realize what a gift it is for us to be able to just walk every day. Hiking is walking in really spectacular situations. As I was coming out of the wheelchair, there was a lot of things involved. I went through something called transtympanic injections where they do a little surgical procedure. They go through your eardrum and inject your vestibular nerve with a steroid that was developed while they were working on Christopher Reeves' spinal cord injury. Their hope was basically make a louder signal for my brain to get the balance signals for my inner ear.

I went through all these procedures and a lot of physical therapy after them. There was this woman who was an occupational therapist, and she was trying to figure out tools for me as I started getting better and better. So I went to Lofstrand crutches, which are the crutches you hold with a hand, and it grabs your forearm at the same time. She had me using two of those, so I was sort of walking with four legs. I kind of look like one of the original Star Wars creatures a little bit, but four legs was good, but it was slow. As I got a little more balance, she got me to three legs. As she used a quad cane for that, and she said, "I want to get you something that's a strong, single-point cane that you could use." She went out and bought me a hiking stick.

Elyse H: Wow.

Randy Pierce: That hiking stick that she put in my hand reminded me that when I was a boy, I used to a hike a little bit. I had given up hiking when I went blind because it was one of the things that I put on the list I couldn't do anymore, and then I never really thought about it afterwards, but that whole being in the wheelchair made me think about it and her putting the hiking in my hand. That after I got good enough to walk, after I got my new guide dog from that point, he loved the woods. I said, "Maybe that hiking stick that I eventually didn't even need anymore, maybe I'm going to pick it back up and see if we can't go out in the woods again." So that's where hiking came from. Then running is certainly something else I've gotten a little bit of acclaim for. I've managed to win two National Marathon Championships out at the USADA's tournament every year. This year, I did not. I came in third, so there's some young, faster runners that are going to put me in my place, but the reality is that running came about for hiking because in order to be a better hiker... The trails in New England are twisty, rocky, rooty, and there's a lot of mental concentration. I built up working on that, but the more physical condition I got, the more energy I would have to think about the challenges of it. If I got physically tired, that made me get a little more mentally sloppy, and I'd be at risk of falling. So I needed to get myself physically stronger. I started taking longer and longer walks with my guide dogs. It's kind of a fun thing I do with my guide dogs. I pay them for their work. My guide dogs like to be paid with play. So when I walk in the house, the first thing I do is I play with my guide dogs. They learned this trick. So as soon as they realized we were heading home from these long walks, they would pick up the pace and as a result of that, we certainly started reaching a pace where I was holding my guide dog back to keep him from running because you're not supposed to run with your guide dogs is general rule. There is a running guide dog program that has started in part because of where I when with my guide dog, Quinn, which is that my instructor came out.

They come out and see you once a year, make sure you guys were all doing well. He says, "Boy, he picked up the pace since we're heading home. I see you holding him back. Why are you holding him back?" I said, "Because you told me I'm not allowed to run." He said, "Well, the reason is because typically, the dogs can't track all the things they have to worry about, and he seems to have it in hand. If you want to pick up a little, I want to watch." So we picked up, and he said, "He's doing it fine. I'm going to trust you to build on this. As long as he's following the rules, you go whatever pace you want." That led to me running 33 road races with my dog in conjunction with working with the school. We ran 5Ks and 10Ks. When I finally lost my boy, I switched over the human guides and running longer distances, but there's two big sports that came out as a result of that. Being open-minded to the things that you enjoy and to the opportunities that arise is part of how you find your way along there.

Elyse H: Oh, I love it. Thanks for sharing. Here, I see we have another hand up. Liz, can you hear us?

Liz: Yes. Can you hear me?

Elyse H: Yeah, yeah. Go ahead.

Liz: Okay. I'd like to just kind of back up a little bit because I don't know about the other people that are in this call, but a lot of us can't afford to do these mountain climbings, and flying here, and flying there because we're on a set income. What kind of suggestions can you do for that and I also had sent in a question about tomorrow, I'm meeting with a new O&M, but since I haven't seen an O&M in 10 years and that kind of thing. It's really exciting to hear about somebody climbing a mountain, but that's not realistic for the majority of us. So can you expand on something that might be?

Randy Pierce: Yeah, absolutely, I can. First off, understand that where I live, mountains are in my backyard, so it's not an expense for me to go to the mountains typically, but that said, when I say, "What is it that you want to do?" I mean start with walking. I just celebrated walking and walking in the parks and the woods that are around me. The first thing I'd ask you, Liz, and hopefully, your microphone is still unmuted because I'd like to understand what are challenges. I know you got your appointment coming up with your O&M, and that's awesome, but what are the challenges that might be inhibiting you that might be stopping you from doing the things that you might like to do?

Liz: I love walking, but we have absolutely no sidewalk, absolutely no tracks. If I want to walk, I have to walk in the street, and there's cars parked on both sides of the street, so there's only one car able to get through. Thank God, I can hear, so I can stop in front of a stop and wait for whatever moving car comes by before I continue on, but it's not the very ideal thing to do once you start getting more and more blind. I'm not completely blind yet, but my family thinks I'm taking too many risks by walking on the streets, which kind of makes sense, but I got up enough to do the closest park to me is grass. So I got a cane that I can walk with grass. I don't know what else to do in my neighborhood. I mean I got no sidewalk. I've got no path.

Randy Pierce: Sure. So let me start there then if I could, right? I-

Liz: Pardon me?

Randy Pierce: Let me start with that then. I agree with risk assessment is important, right? I don't want to be a risk-taker. Honestly, the most dangerous thing, and I've heard this from almost every person I know who has a sight impairment, most dangerous thing we do is interact with a street or any place where there could be a car. That's true of my... All of the other adventures I have are not nearly as dangerous as when I cross the street or walk along a street edge because, frankly, that's where a car has a chance of hitting. Our O&M instructors can do a lot to help us get the skills and tools we need to walk reasonably safely, but there are some environments, and O&Ms will tell you, that are not recommended. If that's the environment you live in, then I say you got to find a way to get to an environment that is better for walking since you like it.

Then the strategy is learning two things. Where is there a good location to walk? Where is there a better park and how can we find ways that you could get there reliably and, obviously, without a cost impact because that gets all of us? Examples of how you might do that, for example, there's an organization online called They're all over the country. People are matched up. Some for runners, some for walkers who in a geographic area might want to go out and do guided walks or runs. That adds two things. It might get you a ride to a better place to go out and do that if there's a park that's maybe not in your neighborhood, but maybe a couple of miles away that you could now get to because most of those people are willing to pick up and get you to the places that'll let you do this. Then it gives you a companion to, one, learn the park because it might be a new area. Our O&M instructors aren't necessarily always available to go to every possible new park we might explore.

That's just one example. I'm saying that not knowing where you live, but I know United in Stride serves all over the country. There are similar approaches, right? I'd start finding out if that doesn't work, is there a Lion's Club I can connect with to say, "Hey. Here I am. I'd love to be able to get out and get a little more walking. I don't live in a place that's very good. I wonder if any of your club's members..." because that's their mission, service towards that, towards people who are sight-impaired. I've found people who get good results doing that. That's not one I use. I am a Lion's Club member, but part of that is I try to give back for the work they do, right? Those are the things I'd start doing and saying, "What is it I really would need and how could I accomplish that?"

Liz: Lion's Club be cool. I know a couple, and I know a completely blind friend that I used to work with that does speeches for the Lion's Club. I did not know that they could provide transportation to safe walking areas. That's pretty cool. I'm in Fort Worth, and our city is growing tremendously. There's just very few safe places to walk, so I'm working on that, but most of them are not within my city limits. So it's very hard to get transportation, even public transportation unless you want to pay Uber, which in Dallas, Fort Worth, I refuse to use Uber because that's the highest-rated area for people that get assaulted by many drivers. Our local paratransit will only do Fort Worth, and most of the areas that are closer to me is not in Fort Worth, so it's a challenge, but that's a very good idea. I will try that.

Randy Pierce: Great.

Elyse H: Thanks for joining in, Liz. Randy, I'm so glad that you mentioned United in Stride. That's a great resource and United States-wide that you could find a partner for running or walking through there. We'll be sure to add that to our show notes as well. And-

Liz: Awesome.

Elyse H: Yeah. I did look. Their contact information, they have a form you can fill out your name, and email, and your message, but if you need help with that, please talk to myself or Steve, and we can connect you as well afterwards or work with you on that.

Liz: I will. Trust me because I want to walk.

Elyse H: Oh, good, good. Yeah.

Liz: I want to walk so bad, but-

Elyse H: Yeah. We got a couple-

Steve K: Thank you so much, Liz.

Elyse H: ...minutes here. Jodie, you're next in line.

Jodie: Well, I was going to also suggest that, like in our county, we have a... The hospital and the rec center work together to have a local walking group. They meet in one location. Then they carpool to various places. So even though I don't drive, if I get to that location, I can go with somebody else. Their walks are... They'll tell you in advance whether they're going to be a difficult walk or an easy walk. So you might contact your rec center or your local hospital to see what kind of fitness programs they have.

Elyse H: Thanks, Jodie. That's a great idea-

Steve K: Great suggestion, yeah.

Elyse H: ...with community resources.

Steve K: I had another question if there's time.

Elyse H: I think so. Go ahead, Steve.

Steve K: Okay. Randy, you must have had some pretty challenging moments when you were using a wheelchair. I've heard you several times say it sounds like you're asking the questions, "What can I do where I am right now?" I think that that's an important way to reframe sometimes to keep ourselves in balance, but what did you do? What tool was in your toolkit that you used to keep yourself from getting real frustrated or real down as you tried to make your way forward with those baby steps?

Randy Pierce: That's a great question, Steve, and I appreciate it. Well, first off, feelings happen, so you do get frustrated. I certainly don't want them, but it comes to this notion of response versus react, right? The reaction is the emotional outpouring, right? So frustration comes in any situation, but our response is how we're going to then, with a little bit of thought, choose our actions on that front. In the short-term, that happens with conversations where I like to suggest to people the ABCs to respond versus react where you acknowledge that you're having a reaction instead of a response, breathe because it delays you and calms you, and then, C, consider what you really want to do. I try to do the same thing in those situations, even the big ones when I'm struggling for really a little motivation.

What I believe is most important to me then is something I think of as momentum, which is that if I can start getting positive momentum, I start feeling better, and it gets easier to keep going in that direction. There's a quote by Nelson Mandela that says, "Don't judge me by how many times I fall down. Judge me by how many times I get back up." Well, I like the quote, but I don't want to judge people, and I really want to know just how do you get back up, right? Because that's sort of what you're asking.

For me, if I have the strength at the time literally or metaphorically, I just slowly get up, but if I don't, maybe I ask for help. Maybe that's part of why all the community-building, whether it's my friends and family that I reach out to and say, "Hey, I'm struggling. I need some help." If that doesn't work because they're not available, maybe sometimes I just have to lay there and ensure a little bit until I build up a little strength, but as quick as I can, I start to say, "What's the first small positive I can put in front of myself? I'm a big fan of a good cup of coffee. So maybe what happens when I get a day that I'm just struggling is I say, "You know what? I'm going to go make myself a nice cup of coffee this morning. That's where I'm going to start my day with. That's going to be the first positive."

Maybe I call a friend and, again, clear communication. I say to them, "You know what? I'm having a tough day. What I could really use from you is to tell me something good in my world because I think that would help start me in a positive direction." Some of my friends have done that for me. Some of them have given me all the frustrations they have too, which doesn't help me, right? Then maybe I either say, "Hey, I appreciate that, but that's not really what I was looking for," or maybe I just don't call them in that situation again. Maybe I call a different friend. But the key is start putting something positive in front of you, and that gets you going in the right direction.

I don't know whether other people find this. Most people I've talked to do. In the hardest times of our lives, one of the best things you can do is find a way to be a positive for somebody else because helping others just lifts you in my mind. Even in our hardest times while we're looking for that positive, finding somebody you can reach out to in a positive way usually gets you going in that direction too. So if I can't find a friend to call and do that for, maybe I call a friend and give them something positive, "Hey. How are you doing? I wanted to check in on you." Even though I may get something negative from them, I'm giving them a positive that gets me going well, right? So there's the start, and I build from there.

Steve K: I like the fact that you acknowledge what you're feeling. You don't ignore it. That was the first thing that you talked about. You acknowledged the way you're feeling, and then you breathe. I think that that probably goes a long way, maybe just recognizing, "Wow, I really feel frustrated right now," or, "This is not a lot of fun." Then move from there and look for something that's going to give you a little bit of positive reinforcement, whatever it happens to be, that cup of coffee or whatever.

Randy Pierce: Sure.

Steve K: Yeah. We are moving into the wrap-up time here. I want to make sure, Randy... I see a hand up.

Elyse H: Yes. The person with phone number 608, you tell us your name, please?

Jeanie Nylander: Hi. My name is Jeanie Nylander. I wanted to ask the question again about you said that you had dealt with a lot of balance issues. Is there a certain name about balance? Because when you talk to a doctor, and it just seems like they don't understand about balance issues in blind people. I've had a lot of concussions, and my head is getting so bad that I can't handle any more concussions, but I want to keep going forward. You said something about you did have balance issues.

Randy Pierce: Yes, right. So-

Jeanie Nylander: What was the person that you asked for in the doctor's office that helped you with that?

Randy Pierce: The otolaryngologist, which is an ear, nose and throat doctor at Lahey Clinic in Boston. The particular one I used was Peter Catalano, but an otolaryngologist is the ear, nose and throat. Your inner ear is closely linked to your balance. He worked with a neurologist who was working with my cerebellum, which is the balance center in your brain.

Jeanie Nylander: Okay. The cerebellum. Okay. All right. Yeah, because I've been-

Randy Pierce: So neurology, cerebellum and neurologist, inner ear, which is the source of most balance issues. That's an otolaryngologist. Just as a note on balance, right? We get our balance from three methods. We get it from our visual horizon, which those of us with sight impairment have an immediate problem. We don't have that necessarily. We get it from our inner ear, which is why the otolaryngologist, and we get it from our proprioception, which is your connection to the ground. Those are your nerves that run along through your legs or your arms if you grab something for stability. That's why when you have balance problems, if you hold onto something, it immediately makes you feel better. Those are your balance cues.

Jeanie Nylander: Okay. Well, thank you very much. I will look for those type of people then to help for balance.

Randy Pierce: All right. Good luck to you.

Jeanie Nylander: Thank you. Thank you so much.

Steve K: Thanks so much for the question. Randy, before we wrap up, how can listeners get in touch with you?

Randy Pierce: Well, thanks for that opportunity. I keep a website called That's the numbers That's the best method to reach me. There's an email there. There's a phone number there. There's Facebook, and Twitter contact, and LinkedIn, and all of those basic formats. I'm generally pretty responsive to email is my favorite way because it lets me get back and at my own time, as I keep a pretty busy schedule, but during the week, I usually get back to people within a day.

Steve K: How about if we want to buy your book? Where can we find that?

Randy Pierce: Thank you for that plug. See You at the Summit is... It's an eBook format. It's in paperback format and, obviously, it's on Audible because I wanted to make sure everybody similar to myself could have an Audible form of reading it. So there's three forms. There's links to it from our website, but Amazon will get you to all of those. A quick search for Randy Piece or See You at the Summit will get you there.

Steve K: That is terrific. Thank you. Thank you so much for joining us tonight. I think it's been wonderful. I've enjoyed listening to the questions and your responses. You were just a terrific guest. We really appreciate it.

Randy Pierce: Well, thank you for the opportunity, and good luck with the new venture. I have connected into your new Facebook page. I'm already one of your likers who've joined the page.

Steve K: Oh, terrific.

Randy Pierce: I'll try to be following in occasionally.

Steve K: Terrific. All right, everybody. Thanks so much for joining us tonight. Keep those questions and comments coming. We love to hear from you.

Elyse H: Thanks for coming. Have a good night.