How Do You Climb Mountains?

November 3, 2016

With Autumn, his guide dog and partner by his side, Randy Pierce came to McLean last week—including visits to the Arlington School and Pathways Academy—to deliver inspirational and instructive stories about adversity, perseverance, and teamwork at the weekly Grand Rounds lecture. A neurological disorder caused Randy to lose his sight in his 20s and led to his temporary use of a wheelchair at the age of 39, yet he has persevered and thrived.

Just a few years ago, Randy and Quinn, his companion and guide dog who passed away in 2014, climbed all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4000-footers in a single winter season. He has also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro (the highest peak in Africa), run seven marathons, and completed two Tough Mudder obstacle courses. Along with these physical feats, he has founded a charity that has raised more than $200,000 and spoken to more than 53,000 students in just the past five years.

Randy Pierce with his guide dog Autumn
Randy Pierce and Autumn at McLean

Randy has achieved so much by developing a set of tools to help address adversity—both positive and negative—along the way. He admitted that at first he was angry, frustrated, and depressed after losing his sight, but he soon adapted.

“Each time that we get set back, each time that we get knocked down, we have a choice,” said Randy. “We can stay there or we can try to find a way to get up and strive forward.”

Randy strongly believes that embracing challenges, which he describes as “positive adversity,” is critical for moving forward. By undertaking challenges, he said, we are bound to achieve something positive in our life. He also finds that “practice makes progress,” with skill development leading to even greater achievement.

“As you set goals and try to reach them, you develop the tools you need,” he explained. “With more tools, you reach your goals more easily.”

Concentrating on positives, in turn, can also help one deal with negative adversity, such as Quinn’s passing.

“I always try to put my focus on something positive,” said Randy. “So, amidst all the grief, one of the things I treasure is how fortunate I am to have had so many incredible adventures and stories with Quinn, how lucky I am to have had him in my life. I would embrace all that hurt again for all the joy I had with him.”

Randy also stressed the importance of teamwork, particularly the notion that people working well together can achieve much more than we can as individuals. To build such a team, he ensures that his teammates know that “they matter to me, that they belong, that they are valued, that they are respected,” and surrounds himself with like-minded people.

That attitude has helped him build great partnerships with both humans and animals, which was evident even after he finished speaking. After his closing message of thanks and a generous round of applause, Autumn immediately sprang up—ready and willing to help Randy achieve his next goal.

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