Breaking Down Barriers Through an Unexpected Friendship
June 27, 2016
I had the pleasure of meeting Bill Barkeley, the deaf-blind adventurer, by chance. My daughter met Bill’s son in college. Upon hearing about Bill, she felt strongly that the two of us should meet. After all, who wouldn’t want to meet a deaf-blind adventurer? I was instantly curious. Around the same time, a good friend of mine who lives in Grand Rapids, MI, where Bill lives, also met him. She too, insisted that I meet Bill. Eventually, Bill and I spoke on the phone and, well, I was much more than curious. I was inspired.
At the age of five, Bill was diagnosed as deaf. However, he went on to graduate from college and worked in sales for a Fortune 500 company, was married and started a family. Eventually, he was diagnosed with Usher’s Syndrome, a rare disorder that causes partial or total hearing loss and vision loss that worsens over time.
A diagnosis that would have held many back spurred Bill forward. At a crossroads with career, family and Usher’s Syndrome, Bill climbed Mount Kilimanjaro using assistive technology for the deaf-blind. That climb was a turning point in Bill’s life. He decided that only he can define himself, and that his disability was only a barrier if he succumbed to it. He has since become a well-known inspirational speaker who has traveled around the world to partake in hikes, climbs, marathons, and other adventure sports. By doing so, he has inspired many to overcome barriers – physical or otherwise – in their lives that have been holding them back.
Bill’s next adventure starts this August when he embarks on the Camino de Santiago, a 500 mile hike that starts in France and ends in Spain. He is doing the hike to raise awareness for Usher’s Syndrome. My wife and I plan to meet Bill in Spain for the last week of the hike. We will walk together from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela (115.1 km / 71.5 miles over 5 days). We will cross the finish line together and celebrate the completion of another great Bill Barkeley adventure. We will also celebrate Usher’s Syndrome Awareness Day on September 17, 2016 in Santiago de Compostela at the completion of the hike.
The hike coincides with the end of my first year as CEO. It has been a great year and a busy one with little time to decompress and reflect. My FOCUS will be keeping up with Bill, not slowing him down and making it to the next day. No e-mails, no phone calls, no meetings. With that FOCUS, I expect clarity, about what has been accomplished in the last year, and the obstacles and opportunities that lay ahead. I also expect inspiration, which happens each and every time I have the opportunity to spend time with my friend Bill Barkeley.
I will share more about my adventures with Bill here in the coming months.