Saturday, June 2, 2012

Values: Part 1

Values: Part 1 I know that in my introduction (first post on this blog) I said that I would talk a lot about goals, goal setting, values, leadership, teamwork, etc. But I also said that we have a journey we need to take. I think that a good place to start our journey is talking about "Values and Attitudes". In 2003, I was 11 years old and invited to be a surprise guest to Erik Weihenmayer on the Oprah Whinnfrey Show. Not long after that I started my own small little Public Speaking venture. I talked to a couple of Rotary Clubs, churches, community groups, etc, about my going blind, the obstacles I had to overcome, meeting Erik and how rock climbing, boyscouts, etc changed my life. The largest audience I ever spoke to was when my Dad and I were asked to speak in tandem at the International Association of Refrigerated Warehousing's (IARW) International Convention in Miami, Florida. I bring this particular speaking engagement up because the theme of the Convention was "Values". Now I was young (12 years old at this time) and didn't really know how to connect my experiences to values. I recently went back and re-read mine and my Dad's speeches and I tried to think about how values have played a role in my life and the importance of values and our attitudes in setting and reaching our goals. Values: First I think we need to answer the question "what are values". Essentially, values are things that we believe to be of great worth or importance. Let's take a look at some basic values that we all learned throughout our childhoods. Respect, honesty, trustworthiness, etc. However, while these are great things to have I don't feel that they are the most important in my personal life. That's not to say that I don't think these are important. On the contrary, I feel that these things are vital to our success as individuals and as members of a family, or organization. But when it comes down to it I think that the things I personally value most of all are the things that mean the most to me. Cliche? So what is most important to us? I can't say what is or isn't or should be most important to you or anybody else. For me though, I can say that the things I value above all others (my true values) are my family and friends, and my health and fitness. How I maintain those as values are those things such as respect, honesty, trustworthiness, commitment, etc. A friend and advisor of mine and my family talks about her order of importance of "be, do, have". She says that for many people it's "do, have, be". We do lots of work to have lots of nice things so that we are happy. Where we should be happy, do that work because of our happiness and then as a benefit of our happiness and hard work we might get to have nice things. I feel the same thing applies with me. In the past few years we've had this economic down turn where we haven't been able to afford as many nice things. I've often been caught up in it as well. My family took a ski trip once a year together for seven or eight years in a row and that was our Christmas present. The past couple years we haven't beeen able to, since airline tickets and house/condo rental have gone through the roof. Was my family disappointed? Absolutely, but we also realize that it's not the ski vacation that is important it's the time we get to spend together on that ski vacation that's important. For me, my order of importance is my family/friends, my health and fitness, and then comes my financial situation. In other words, I will not sacrifice time with my family to make money. And I will not sacrifice my health and fitness to make money. I've been very close with my family my entire life due to my cancer treatment and survival and then not long after I met Erik Weihenmayer we began rock climbing, hiking and camping as a family. As young kids, my sisters and I had fewer friends than the average youngsters, but we were close with each other and close with those friends we had. We grew up in a great household and our parents instilled in us the basic core of our belief system. We learned to respect those around us to find friends that we could have faith in and trust. And much much more. Our parents drilled into us the importance of hard work and having a good work ethic. As I'm entering my final semesters of college and preparing to find a career, I thank my lucky stars that I have such good parents to instill and remind me of what's important in life. After my family, I very highly value my health and fitness. Being a cancer survivor I want to lead as healthy and fit a lifestyle as possible in order to do what I enjoy doing. The fact that I enjoy staying healthy and fit is just an added bonus to its importance. I've been an athlete for a good portion of my life. My sisters and I were competitive rock climbers for a few years and then I wrestled both in high school and college. In order to be the best I could possibly be I had to stay healthy and fit in order to perform at the highest level. If I chose to eat unhealthily, I paid for it with my performance. While I no longer am an active competitive athlete I am a Spinning Registered Instructor and Certified Personal Trainer. So in order to remain credible with my patrons I need to practice what I preach. Not to mention the enormous physical and mental health benefits that eating right and fitness can provide me. So as we begin to wrap things up. I'd like to revisit a few key points. Values, are those things that we deem to be of great worth or importance. These can be things such as trustworthiness, respect, honesty, commitment, etc. Or these can be things such as our family and friends, or our health and fitness. Whatever, and whomever we value, these values can help define who we are and we can use these values to help shape who we want to become. So I will leave with this for now. Think about your values. What are they? Who and what is important to you? And how do those people or things affect your attitudes and actions. Until next time. Climb High, Kyle Coon

Saturday, April 7, 2012

From Big to Small and Small to Big

From Big to Small and Small to Big:

For my entire life I've taken science classes. In every science class I've ever taken there's always a beginning. In biology it starts with DNA. In chemistry and physics it starts with atoms. In environmental science it's the Big Bang Theory. The point here is that our journey starts somewhere.

Atoms are known as the "building blocks of matter" and are the smallest pure forms of elements. We can combine these atoms of various elements to create compounds and molecules which are used to build the items that we are all familiar with. But each of these atoms can be divided up into smaller particles known as protons, neutrons and electrons. These tinier particles determine what atoms combine with what atoms to form compounds and molecules.

Before we can talk about goals, leadership, teamwork and how to be apart of a great team and lead a great team or organization, we need to identify those particles that make up those elements of being a good member and leader of a team/organization. And once we establish what particles make up those elements, then we can use those elements to establish a compound, molecule, and bonds that hold those things together. Essentially we're establishing a fundamental foundation. From that foundation, it is then up to us to design, build, shape and polish ourselves into great team and organization members and leaders.

So now the question is...Where do we start? I've done a lot of thinking, reading and analyzing, and I have come to the conclusion that everyone starts in a different place. However, I am going to go along the lines of thinking that I have been taught and that I have slowly tried to comprehend and understand over the course of my short 20 year existence. I am going to mention several of the particles, atoms and elements here and now, however, I will discuss each of them in greater detail in later posts. I bring them up now because I want us to ponder them prior to actually analyzing them.

From Bigger to Smaller:

When I became a member of the inaugural Leading The Way Program with Global Explorers, I met Eric Alexander. Eric is a climbing partner and friend of Erik Weihenmayer and was a member of Weihenmayer's team that reached the summit of Mt Everest in 2001. While we were in Cuzco, prior to setting out on the Ankascocha Trail, in Peru (June, 2006), Eric (or Erie as we sometimes called him) told us his views on teamwork and leadership. Erie outlined a basic mathematical formula that explains leadership in probably the best way I've ever heard it described. He said that to him "Leadership equals Vision plus Action the divisor is Character". Essentially these are the qualities that make up a good leader. We will break this formula down in greater detail in future blog posts.

I bring it up now because we need to know what we will be examining. When the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and other peoples of the world started delving into the areas of science, mathematics, biology, anatomy, etc they looked at the big picture and then began to break it all down. The further in history we progressed the smaller and smaller our world became and the closer and closer major discoveries were being made. Today, we know a lot more about certain topics than in the past. But the point is we had to start somewhere. We started big and then began to fill in the details. So what do we want?

Before we can become good leaders in our organization, team, group, family, etc, we need to examine ourselves and ask ourselves the question "what is it that makes me who I am?" What are my likes and dislikes? Who do I look up to? Who and what is important to me? Or simply... "What are my values?"

Once we know our values, we can then look at our attitude and how that can get us to where we want to go. After attitude we then develop a vision or goal and strive (take action) to meet that goal(s). We either then achieve our goal(s), partially achieve our goals(s), or don't achieve our goal(s). No matter what happens we're always learning about ourselves and the people around us.

I will go ahead and wrap it up here and just ask all of my readers to think about what makes you who you are. Think about what you like and dislike; what makes you happy and sad; what makes you pleased or mad; who is important to you in your life. In short, what are your values? Think about them for now and maybe write them down. We will go into greater detail about values in the next post.

Until next time.

Climb High!

Kyle Coon

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Greetings and welcome to my blog!
I've tossed the idea of my own personal blog around in my head for some time now and I figured... "why not?". Some of you visiting this blog may know me and of some of my adventures that I've taken in the past and where I might be heading in the future. Others, may not know anything about me. So before I start delving into why and what I'm going to be posting on this blog, I thought you should know just a little bit about me.

My name is Kyle Coon. I am currently a junior at the University of Central Florida (UCF); studying Interpersonal/Organizational Communication (IO COM). When I was ten months old I was diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer known as Retinoblastoma. By age six the damage done to my eyes from both the cancer and the treatment we used to fight it had damaged my eyes beyond repair. My left eye was removed when I was five and my right when I was six, leaving me totally blind. Fortunately, I didn't have long to dwell upon my loss of vision.

Barely a month after I lost my sight my family was introduced to Ed Weihenmayer whose son, Erik, was a World Class Blind Athlete. Erik was a rock climber, mountaineer, downhill skier, skydiver, tandem cyclist, motivational speaker and much much more.

Ed met with my family after he spoke at my Dad's Rotary Club and arranged for us to meet Erik the next time he was in town. So the next time Erik came to town for a speaking engagement we met and talked. I was just a seven year old kid, but Erik took the time to talk to me. Erik encouraged to give rock climbing a try and gave me something much greater, hope. About a year later I started rock climbing and about a year to a year and a half after that I was competitivebby rock climbing.

In 2003, I was invited to be a surprise guest for Erik Weihenmayer on the Oprah Whinnfrey Show. Shortly after that, my family and I went skiing for the first time; fell in love with the sport and made it a regular family vacation (to try and go skiing in Colorado as often as we could get away).

In 2005, I applied for, and was accepted into the Leading The Way Program (LTW) led by Erik Weihenmayer in partnership with Global Explorers. LTW combined blind and sighted students from aacr the US to travel and hike together through the Peruvian Andes to Machu Picchu. In 2006, we accomplished our goal by spending almost two weeks in Peru where we performed a service project, learned about Inca history and culture, as well as explored several Inca ruins and hiked the Ankascocha Trail into Machu Picchu.

On the train ride from Machu Picchu to Cuzco (former capitol of the Inca Empire) several of us talked about our trip and how inspired we felt to do more. So we decided to do so. We asked one of our trip leaders, Eric Alexander, to lead us up Mt Kilimanjaro (tallest mountain in Africa) the following year and he agreed. Later after we had all returned home, Global Explorers contacted those of us who were planning our Kilimanjaro trip. Global Explorers offered to ta'e on the organizational side of the trip and before we knew it, nine of our twelve team members (encompassing our three blind, one visually impaired and six sighted students) were standing atop the African Continent.

On the journey down the mountain my friends Brad Jaffke, Justin Grant and myself talked about the possibility of us climbing more mountains together. Several months after we returned home from Tanzania we officially formed and named our climbing team, Team Sight Unseen. We eventually found and recruited three other climbers to join our team. We are now comprised of four sighted climbers, one visually impaired climber (Justin) and one totally blind climber (myself).

Our fourth team member was a friend and rock climbing partner of Justin's named Joe Mayfield and our fifth and sixth team members came about via an unconventional means.

After we'd returned from Kilimanjaro, I wrote a short piece and submitted it to Backpacker Magazine. Backpacker published it in their Winter 2007 issue and that article was read by Peter Green, a lifelong outdoorsman who had some aspirations to through-hike the Pacific Crest Trail with a blind person (his mother and sister are both visually impaired). When Pete read my piece in Backpacker he thought I might be a good candidate and contacted through Global Explorers. I got in touch with Pete via email, and later by phone. Peter wasn't just a backpacker, but a big time mountaineer and rock climber as well. I told him that Team Sight Unseen was more into mountaineering than long distance backpacking, but that his trip idea of doing the PCT sounded intriguing. Pete immediately offered his services to teach us anything we wanted to know about mountaineering and the outdoors in general. So in July 2008, Brad and I flew to Oregon and met Peter Green for the first time. Peter took Brad and I through a week long mountaineering 101 course that he'd created. We learned numerous mountaineering and outdoor techniques and climbed upto 9000 feet on Mt Hood and then climbed and summitted Mt St. Helens. When Brad and I returned to Wisconsin and Florida respectively, we conferenced with Justin and Joe on the phone and then formally extended an invitation to Peter to join our team. Peter accepted, and we began planning a second trip.

In 2009, I received my guidedog, but Brad, Justin, Joe and Peter tra"eled to Washington to do some climbing. Peter had recruited his friend and climbing partner Ben Meyer to accompany them. The five of them climbed and summitted Mt Adams and Mt Rainier. Ben officially became a member of the team to make us a crew of six and we all planned for a trip the following summer.

In February, 2010, Team Sight Unseen won the Gore-Tex Experience More Challenge and we received $10000 to put towards a trip of our choice. We decided to fund what we were considering a "training climb". Our goal was to eventually climb Aconcagua (South America's tallest mountain, 22841 ft, 6194 m) and Peter had picked out what he felt would be a good test of our abilities. So in August, we traveled to Wyoming to attempt Gannet Peak (tallest mountain in Wyoming). The trip was about 50 miles of round trip hard hiking and mountaineering. Unfortunately, I developed terrible blisters and was unable to make the final summit push. Justin elected to hang with me and we encouraged the other four to go for the summit.

Even though I didn't summit Gannet, I still learned so much about myself and my teammates on that trip. We haven't yet gone to try and attempt Aconcagua due to the fact that we feel we still need to climb together more, gain more experience, and we can't afford such a big trip just yet. Despite that, our goals are still firmly in mind. And that will bring me around to why I decided that it was time to start this blog.

It Takes A Journey:
"If you can anything you want but just uttering a few words, the goal matters not; only the journey to it." (Rhunón; speaking in "Eldest" by Christopher Paolini)

The above quote is what inspired me to come up with Team Sight Unseen's motto: "It's not the destination but the journey that makes the trip worthwhile". Howevera, it wasn't this quote from Christopher Paolini's fantacy series "The Inheritance Cycle" alone that helped to develop this motto. In his memoir, "Touch The Top of the World: A Blind Man's Journey to Climb Farther Than The Eye Can See", Erik Weihenmayer says "the real beauty hapfens on the side of the mountain not the top". And when we were in Peru Erik told our entire group about a time he and a friend had hiked the Grand Canyon from rim to rim and back in 24 hours. They told a Park Ranger about it expecting her to be impressed and she asked them whether or not they would run through the Smithsonian Institute, because that's what the outdoors is like. We should stop and appreciate the beauty of our surrounding environment. My high school chemistry teacher, Mr Sciullo, use to repeatedly tell our class "there is no path of least resistance". Renown World Class Mountaineer Ed Viesturs named his autobiography "No Shortcuts to the Top". The rough draft of my memoir is called "It Takes A Journey". So everywhere we look there's this idea of a journey. I hope that through this blog I might be able to inspire you with stories from my personal life or the lives of others to slow down and examine what's important in your life, your career, your relationships, etc. We all have a goal, we all want to reach our goal, but there's a journey that we must take to reach that goal otherwise we do not fully appreciate it.

I'll be posting a lot of papers, articles, etc that I have written that have to do with goal setting, values, leadership, teamwork, etc. But I'll also be posting things that relate to these topics but may not seem relevant. Such as?

I'm a certified Spinning Instructor and, hopefully, soon to be Personal Trainer. I might be posting things about exercise science and physiology, workout plans, techniques, drills etc. I promise it will all be relevant to this idea of taking a journey to reach our goals. I will also probably post some past trip reports of adventures that I have had the great pleasure and privilege in which to take part (Gannet Peak, Mt Kilimanjaro, etc).

So please, read, enjoy, and let's step out upon this journey we call "Life" together.

Climb High,
Kyle Coon

Websites to Visit: (Official home of Team Sight Unseen) (Team Sight Unseen official blog) (Erik Weihenmayer's website) (Eric Alexander's website) (Global Explorers website)