Episode 77: Timmy O’Neill – To Infinity and Beyond


All Xero Gravity episodes

Hosted by Elizabeth Ü

You’re climbing a gigantic cliff face, it’s 2,300 metres to the summit, and there’s no guarantee you’ll even get to the top… this sounds hard enough as it is, but imagine doing that without the use of your legs…

Timmy O’Neill’s outlook in life is shaped by conquering what others would call the impossible. No matter how many times he’s failed, the decision to succeed has always been Timmy’s driving force.

“Failure is a way forward,” says the professional rock climber, comedian, and founder of Paradox Sports, a nonprofit that runs adaptive climbing trips for people of all abilities and skill levels.

Tune in to learn what it truly means to live life on the edge. Listen along to Timmy’s stories of trial and error, as he opens up about the people in his life who have inspired him to move mountains. He also makes amazing sound effects. Be uplifted with Xero Gravity #77!

Episode transcript

Host: Elizabeth Ü [EÜ]

Guest: Timmy O'Neill [TON]

EU: Hi everyone, I'm Elizabeth U and this is Xero Gravity. Timmy O'Neill is a world-famous rock climber and one of my favorite storytellers of all time. He's funny and heartfelt and super observant about the human condition. I was thrilled to interview him for the show. I love how Timmy faces life's hardships with a sense of what's possible. After his brother became paraplegic, he started an organization that gets blind and disabled people out climbing. Have a listen. I'll bet you'll quickly agree that Timmy's other calling as an inspirational speaker is a perfect fit.

I'm so glad that you're joining us today on Xero Gravity.

TON: Why, thank you, it's wonderful to be here on Xero Gravity, because you know, gravity, of course the theory of relativity. But, we're looking for special relativity. That's what Xero Gravity brings, right?

EU: Exactly. Just for those of you listening, Timmy and I first met in Yosemite National Park, in particular, Yosemite Valley, back in 1999. At the time, let me just paint a picture of you. I was trying to live out my long-time fantasy of being a dirt-bag climber and Timmy was actually pulling it off. I learned a long time ago that this was not my true path, but Timmy, how did you go from living in the Boulders to making a living as a climbing guide? Not to mention founding an amazing non-profit and doing humanitarian work around the world?

TON: Well, it's been this sort of organic or natural evolution. I first discovered climbing as a young kayaker. I would see the climbers above on the cliffs that of course the rivers cut. Then, eventually, when I was 19, I headed out to the American West and to Yellowstone National Park, in particular, discovered true rock climbing and knew that I was hooked forever. Then I went to Joshua Tree National Park, Yosemite National Park. The National Parks may not have saved my life, but they definitely helped me define it, and continually help me discover it.

EU: You recently climbed the classic route, Chasm View Wall in Colorado with Erik Weihenmayer, who is a climber that I actually met briefly when he gave a keynote address at the Goldman Awards. He is a climber who is blind. You've climbed with him before. You've also climbed the iconic El Capitan Big Wall in Yosemite, which is pretty much the default wallpaper for anyone who is on a Mac around the world. What sparked your interest in adaptive climbing for people who are blind or paraplegic or somehow not climbing like the rest of us for whatever reason?

TON: Well, my introduction to climbing with disability was my brother Sean. He is one of my six siblings. There's seven children. Susan, Sean, Kimberly, Kevin, Timmy, Tommy, Billy. Sean was injured in a leap of faith. He jumped off a bridge for fun. We grew up kayaking as kids and we with always jump off bridges and cliffs and he regrettably jumped off a high bridge and when he hit the water he broke his back.

EU: Oh, no.

TON: That's irrevocable. His life becomes changed, and my life, and everyone's life is changed. Part of me understanding his paralysis was inviting him to become a climber. He wasn't one before his injury, so through crisis comes opportunity. We created the opportunity for him to become a climber.

EU: What does that look like physically?

TON: For him, he is in a wheelchair. His legs don't move any longer when you're suffering from paraplegia, it means your spinal cord has been severed or at least compromised. For him it's a complete paralysis. With legs that don't work, he's more on the ground, unless he's in his chair. For the big wall, climbing El Capitan, for example, which we've done three times together, he's doing pull ups up the face. We'll lead or set the ropes and determine the course, and he'll follow along by pulling his way up the ropes. For El Capitan, he did about 3,000 pull ups over the course of about a week, climbing on the wall together.

EU: Hold on, just to start with, let's make very, very clear that there are very few people in the world who even embark upon a big wall climb like this, to spend a week on a wall of granite, whether it's as big as El Capitan, or otherwise. Here you're taking your brother, who had the news, after this fall that he can't even walk. You're like "Hey, let's go climbing." That's pretty amazing that you even had at that thought, or was he the one that was wanting to come with you. How did that happen? This is not a normal turn of events.

TON: Well, what happens generally is somebody leads the way. There was an inspirational figure named Mark Wellman, a paraplegic, as well, who sustained an injury while climbing. He fell while climbing a peak and injured his back. He was mountaineering or mountain climbing at the time, and he would go on to do the first paraplegic ascent of El Capitan and also of Half Dome. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and Mark Wellman is that giant. He proved that it was possible, and like everything in life, you have to make it our own, because we're all individuals.

With Sean, it was a trial and error of figuring out his system and creating the tools that we would need. We didn't climb El Cap as our first climb. We went and climbed Devil's Tower in Wyoming, the iconic huge basalt, sort of volcanic cone, that is in the movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, dadadadah. Then we would go on to climb Castleton Tower outside of Moab, and some other rocks, and eventually we climbed El Cap. We had a learning process where you trial and error and you try the systems, and you wind up building a trust and you go for it.

EU: When did you start bringing other people into this experience of adaptive climbing? It wasn't just your brother.

TON: It wasn't. Well, it started with my brother and because I created this body of information that was about the human body and how to adapt and overcome adversity and deal with that adaptive process and unique scenarios, other people started reaching out. Then, in 2007, just couple of years after Sean and I did our first ascent of El Cap together, I started to receive outreach from other people who wanted to climb and wanted information on how to do it.

Then I did a particular clinic, an adaptive climbing clinic in Washington DC, and as a result of meeting some people there, we came together with the realization that we should start an organization that was clearinghouse of these ideas and these skill sets and these tools, and the volunteers that go along with their utilization.

EU: This is a story that is very common amongst the guests that we've had on this show. There's people that are super passionate about something or they get motivated to do something in a creative or an innovative way based on some bizarre turn of events in their lives, and then next thing you know, you are starting what's essentially a small business. I mean, Paradox Sports is ... It's a non-profit, right?

TON: It is. Yeah, it's a non-profit based here in Colorado that does programming nationally and even has a international influence. Absolutely.

EU: Did you find yourself in a position of suddenly filling out a lot of paperwork and other types of things to make your non-profit legit, that were maybe not the same as some of the skills that you had as a climber and a leader in that community?

TON: Not at first, because when we decided to start the organization, I was more of an influence of the resources that we had and a connector. Several years into the life of the organization, I actually became the Executive Director and I took on a role that was much more administrative and much more bureaucratic and I had to learn a new set of tools and a new set of guidelines, and then I proceeded to guide the organization to it's current incarnations and it's current success.

EU: What were some of those things that you had to learn that weren't part of your day-to-day life before?

TON: Well, for example, having employees and inspiring those employees not only to do their job consistently but to do it well, and to spark curiosity and to spark excellence in those employees. Then, a huge thing was getting along personally with the board of directors. That all ideas need to be hear. That creating an open, sharing and humble place from which to create the excellence of the mission.

EU: It sounds very similar to what it take to climb a big wall, for instance, but I'm curious about some of the techniques that you use to inspire your employees and make sure that everyone felt heard. I mean, these are things that can take a lifetime to learn as an entrepreneur.

TON: I think that that's the most important part is that it's not figured out. That it's an ongoing endeavor to become better at it, and that of course requires you to course-correct. That is another form of humility, to say, "We're going the wrong way, let's go this way now." As far as the individuals possessing their qualities and then the resources for their ongoing capacity to do their job, that also is an ongoing evolution, in that it's not like you hire somebody and then they remain in that same role.

EU: What's an example of where you've been working with folks and it's time for a course correction?

TON: Well, I would say an example of a time when we were working with somebody and there's a course correction is the business is growing. Our needs are increasing. Our needs are being magnified. Course correction happens also in that sort plasticity in being able to overcome the adversity of "I have more than I need to deal with," and "I'm wearing so many hats that I'm a walking hat rack," and being able to be a nimble thinker and then a nimble executor. Let's face it, there are people that have that capacity and people that don't. A course correction could be to fire someone, or to create the capacity to have somebody new come into the business. Course correction can be brutal sometimes and you can be voted off the island or like our president-elect, Donald Trump would say, "You're Fired."

EU: Well, when you're climbing and there's a moment where you've hit some sort of a major challenge, like clearly you're not firing anyone off of that particular endeavor, what do you do in those situations, when you hit a challenge that seems insurmountable?

TON: You could go down. You could rappel. The option does exist almost always for you to descend what it is you came up, even if it's going to be very difficult and you have to employ these sort of savage techniques of down-aiding to escape. Escape is a part of it. I guess, Liz, what I really would like to talk about with course correction is the word humility, and being able to see that failure is a way forward. I know that may seem in-obvious, or puzzling, but I believe that in order to have a full community at work, that everybody needs to be recognized.

This was my experiences with guiding Paradox Sports. Towards the end of it, when I was phasing out of being the Executive Director, and then continuing on with my sort of muse role and resource role, connecting role, was that I realized I was good at some things and bad at some things. The one thing that I was not good enough at was wanting to be in the lead role with the organization. For myself, I kind of auto-fired myself, if that makes sense?

EU: It does make sense. It does make sense and I think that's often really difficult for people to understand. One of the things that good leaders do really well is that they delegate tasks that they're not good at or they hire people who are smarter than them in certain areas to make sure that they're focused on what they do best. I keep thinking about this concept of humility and how it relates to not only leadership in a small business sense, but also any kind of physical challenge as well that one is facing. Let me ask you this, how many times have you seen some really big, burly dude with so much ego walk up to a climb and just fail miserably?

TON: That does happen. I think that if you use El Cap as an example, I believe it's 50% of the parties that attempt to climb it fail. They have bitten off too much, or it's that classic case of the dog that chases the car, then they've caught it, then they go, "Oh, what do I do now?" Part of that "what do I do now," might be descending, might be bailing, as the dirt bags call it. I think that that's course correction. That's what goes into trial and error. Success and failure. Is that it's a fail-forward classic paradigm.

Or, it's that wisdom is best gleaned from making mistakes and that mistakes are inevitable if you're actually trying something that you're uncertain of the outcome. What you're really getting at then is this state of vulnerability where you're uncertain of the outcome, and then this willing or this conjuring of the courage to go into the fray anyway, and then through a result of that vulnerability, in addition to the courage, that it actually equals the power of the possible. In other words, that the equation will only be answered through actually applying yourself and this is at the heart of living life.

EU: Well, when you're talking about climbing with people who are blind or paraplegic, is your experience that they're approach to vulnerability is different?

TON: It is different in that you are already compromised if your legs don't work. You can't run away. Your fight and flight is limited. If you can't see, you are unable to determine your surroundings, so you need a guide. When you're in a situation where you need to ask for help, you are immediately challenged with the vulnerability of that person refusing, or being unable to for whatever reason. I feel that if you're exchanging with vulnerability more and you have more of a fluency with it, then you can utilize it more cleanly or more effectively.

EU: I have to believe that, again I'm thinking about these big burly dudes that think, oh, I'm strong, I've got a ton of upper body strength, I'm going to be a good climber. One of my heroes always growing up and still is Lynn Hill. Not only is she a very short person, she's a very small woman, and yet she would climb circles around some of these dudes that thought they were going to be for instance, the first one to free-climb the nose on El Capitan, that we've been talking about. What has been your observation in terms of people who don't have maybe necessarily what's considered the classic elements to succeed? Has your experience been that they tend to be better at understanding where their skills are in having that humility and vulnerability that it takes to push through?

TON: Well, I feel that if you use this example of a big burly person, and they're unable to, well if they're properly learning from their mistakes, again the basis of wisdom, that they would go forward and try something different. They would have an alternative approach. That requires you to be be paying attention to what it is you're doing. That it's not an accident, but a purposeful series of decisions that brought you there. What I'm getting at is nuance, subtlety and climbing isn't about doing pull-ups. In fact, it's about technically unlocking a sequence involving your feet. So much more of climbing is about your toes than your hands, which isn't obvious.

When things are difficult, and I call it elective challenge. When you decide to make them difficult, you're more properly prepared when things are difficult involuntarily. That's why somebody who's dealing with blindness, paralysis, neurological, muscular, amputation, is trading in the nuance of adversity. They're trading in this sort of, ability to overcome because it's built into who they are. You have an advantage that you may not see at first when you're blind. It's not that your sense of smell is better because you're blind. It's that you're using your sense of smell more and more articulately. It's that you're using your sense of hearing --  more nuanced. Once again, it's only through a process of application that you become better.

If you have somebody who is blind, for example, Erik Weihenmayer, when we climb this 1,800 foot wall the other day, to be with him and to witness him, and to be instructing him as he's going along, you realize that he is essence speaking a different language. Call it the language of blindness. That I'm having this pigeon blindness experience as I start to understand the nuances around it. That's what I'm looking for. Personally, for me, I'm looking for the most curious, interesting and challenging experiences so that I can have that wealth of knowledge and those icons on my map legend to navigate my life the best possible ways.

EU: How many languages do you think you speak at this point?

TON: Well, feel confident that I speak a language that isn't fluent because I think to have true fluency in blindness, you need to be blind. In order to have true fluency in paralysis, you need to be paralyzed. I can visit these places, these culturally significant identities and I can converse in meaningful, sustainable in positively transforming and enduring ways.

EU: One of the languages that you have mastered is one of humor. There's something about humor and levity that's super important when we're facing humongous tasks. How have you found that this has worked for you as a coach or as a business leader? What is humor allowing other people to do?

TON: I think that laughter is their relief of stress. That humor is an escape valve for anxiety and the things are hectoring us. The things that we think, about that aren't positive. Humor allows us to not only laugh at that but to find relief from it. To also realize that it doesn't have to be black, even if the humor is black. I think gallows humor is a great example of that, sort of sardonic darkness. Gallows humor is essentially the relief of the stress in grave danger. When you're a soldier in the field of war, you're going to be making jokes about war. You're going to be making jokes and making light of the worst possible scenarios because by acknowledging them, you can at least relax and say, "Okay, we're all on the same page."

EU: Timmy, why do you think that so many of us are drawn towards these risky activities?

TON: I think many of us are drawn to risky activities because they have a great return on investment in that you get to be close to the edge. So many of us are taught as children to avoid the edge. We grow up with edge avoidance. "Be careful, you might fall. Be careful, you could get hurt. Be careful, stay away from that." Primally, that makes sense, survival of the fittest would preclude that you don't get injured and that you're not going to disappear, and that hopefully you will be able to procreate and continue the legacy of your deoxyribonucleic acid into the future.

It is a reward in and of itself that to get to the summit, first of all, means you're only halfway there because you have to get back down. But even to attempt to get to the base of the climb is in and of itself a journey that has value. I think we want to have risk because in that classic sense, it makes us feel very alive when we're reminded of our fragility and our mortality.

EU: What's the most scared you've ever been?

TON: The most scared I've ever been would have involved-

EU: Yeah, tell us the story.

TON: Well, it would have involved the numerous times that I've almost died.

EU: Like what?

TON: Like car accidents. Those are really scary. When you're flipping upside down repeatedly ... Hello?

EU: Still here.

TON: Okay you're back, you're back. So where were we?

EU: The most scared you've ever been.

TON: Oh, the most scared I've ever been was when my Skype stopped working. The technology was failing me and I realized that this technological revolution was another fiction, just like democracy, NOOOO!.

EU: Well, as much as it sounds like you do what you do for love and not for money, obviously at some point you have to have a business head about you to pull off this lifestyle. I think not everyone realizes what an entrepreneur you have to be to do what you love and actually pay the bills. What has been your learning curve as far as the business side of things goes? You're a public speaker, you're a comedian, you get paid to do these things that you do in your life. Can you really make money as a professional speaker, comedian, guide?

TON: Yes, you can. I think what's important to realize it's a gig economy. Even if your gig might be your entire existence, like at a job. "I got this job early on, I stayed there for 45 years and then retired," that still was your gig. I'm into shorter periods, meaning that I want to work and I'm going to go to work to host a particular event. The event could be one evening, or it could be three days.

Then I also love to write. I'm really into expressing myself through the written word. Looking for articles to publish. Considering writing a book. I think that fundamentally, in fact, Liz, I just wrote an Instagram post today that I really loved. I'm into this long captioning on my Instagram, and at the very end of it, I go, "As I woke this morning again uncertain of my direction, I felt the sails stir, and realized that they weren't knocked down nor lashed, and that I was only becalmed in a momentary spiritual doldrums. Most important, it dawned on me that the trues winds of change emanate from my chest."

I pause simply because it's that fundamentally important and it should be full stop. You are responsible for the world you live in. You're responsible for the change you want to see in the world and you're responsible for that change does and does not occur.

EU: If people want to follow along and hear more of these beautiful and inspiring long captions, what's your Instagram handle?

TON: Timmy O’Neill T-I-M-M-Y O-N-E-I-L-L. That's a difficult last name. When it's spelled out, it's a capital O'N-E-I-L-L, so it had two capital letters, diphthong, two consonances at the end and it has a punctuation mark in it. Come on, Irish people.

EU: I get it. I have a one-letter last name with an umlaut.

TON: Oh, wow, you're so German.

EU: I'm not, I'm half Chinese. Moving along, if you could bump into your 17-year-old self, what would you tell yourself about what you've already learned, versus what would you let yourself learn on your own by going through it, hardships and all?

TON: Well, I would say nothing to myself, I would simply observe my 17-year-old self and see me over there, and I'd say, "Look at that guy, he knows nothing, but he has this incredible life, 30 more years ahead of him, I'm 47 now, so I'd be going backwards in time 30 years. This is fundamentally really important. We move forwards but we give backwards. So, that concept of what would you tell yourself, really is about mentorship and providing counsel. When I was young, I called it accidental mentorship.

These people in my life that influenced me accidentally. They weren't trying to influence me but they were around me. One in particular was my uncle Bill. Uncle Bill was a bad-ass kayaker. He could spin in his kayak in the river and he had this really cool house and a great sound system. He was just really influential about getting out West. I'll never forget it. He went to Yellowstone National Park.

I was so little I had to reach up past his waist to get the photos, color prints, that he had taken with is cool camera. They were of bison and elk and geysers and incredibly intact, rich ecosystems. I thought to myself as this little, tiny boy, "This exists? You can go there?" I went there when I was 19. What I would tell myself is really what I tell the young people that I influence, when I work with them. It is to be present, to critically assess the world they live in, and to make the decisions that guide and govern them. That doesn't mean that they're are alone.

In fact, it means that they even more need to have counsel, their mate, or second mate. The individual whose going to be navigating and reading the map perhaps. That it really does take several people to create a solid life, and these relationships and these skills in creating curating these relationships, it's also an ongoing process of trial and error, of learning.

I think if I could truly tell myself to answer that question the literal way, I would say, be a musician. Forget the wilderness, dude. Stick with the wilderness of art and live music and the creative outlet that is playing it, our original mother tongue in utero, our mother's heartbeat, bump-bum, bump-bum, bump-bum, bump-bum. That's what I would tell myself, follow music.

EU: Ah. What's ... I have to, like, sit and be blown back by that for a second. What's an experience that you would wish that all human beings could have?

TON: The experience of reading.

EU: Because it could take people to any number of worlds?

TON: There's a great quote from Gandhi, that is: "To live life as if you were to die tomorrow," so the immediacy of living in the now, and to not be living in the past, and not be living an expectation of the future, but be navigating currently when you're at the wheel, with the current conditions, that are forming this navigation. The second part of that quote is to: "Learn as if you were to live forever." That ongoing communication with knowledge. To be the eternal student. Books provide one an incredible repository of all of the information from civilization’s 5,000 years, and we can utilize it to learn whatever you want, so reading is one experience that I wish everybody could have.

I would never say climbing. I would never say kayaking. I wouldn't even really necessarily say emerging themselves in wilderness. Literal wilderness, but the wilderness of the mind. It's the power of our perception that really creates the worlds that we live in.

EU: Sorry, I just had to write down: "Wilderness of the mind". Big circles. What's the thing that you're most excited about next?

TON: My next thing that I'm most excited about? Well, I would say that it's what I'm about to do next, which tomorrow, I jump on flight and head to California to go to a wedding in Big Sur, which will be an incredible collection of my tribe. It's a photographer, and outdoor photographer and his lovely wife soon-to-be who is from the outdoor industry as well. She works with non-profits and etc. To bring those people together, my chosen family, my tribe and to party with them, I'm ecstatic about. Soon after that I'm going to head up to what I would call my Mecca, and it's Yosemite Valley and I'm going to go for some soul-time. Some solo climbing and immerse myself in a deep, biotic wilderness.

EU: What does that do for you to immerse yourself in that soul-time and sit in the meadow and stare at the El Capitan?

TON: I feel that I'm a very kinetic, gesticulatory person, movement with my hands, expressing myself through different modes of creativity. I kayak and climb and ski and bike and I'm very physical, but as emotional, spiritual, intellectual. To go to Yosemite is to disconnect from those outlets and to get to a much more primal, simple, silent, peaceful place, and be humbled by the massiveness around me. The seeming audacity of life that this incredibly changing evolutionary world we live in that started 13.75 billion years ago, with a big bang and continually expands. I am absolutely enthralled, and to go to Yosemite is to have that written in trees, stone and river.

EU: When you think about how important, whether climbing has been in your life, or kayaking or the relationships that you have with your chosen tribe, as you put it, what lessons have you learned in any of those contexts that you think would be relevant for people who are starting businesses?

TON: As far as starting a business and having a corollary to starting a climb, that could be multiple days, even multiple weeks. Or, to starting a river trip that are in fact multiple weeks long. These are massive endeavors. It's that classic, "A journey of a thousand miles starts with that first step". To go for it. To make that first step. To attempt is to find out whether you can. To not attempt is to find out nothing. I feel that climbing inherently is about problem-solving. To embrace the problem. To embrace the problem is to attempt to find the solution.

I feel that crux-mentality goes into navigating really difficult terrain. That's an easy metaphor to the terrain of business. It's why businesses is often hire people like myself to come and talk to their sales meetings. To talk to their executive teams, because they're looking for insight on how they can navigate within the challenging terrain of their business. There is similarity in elective challenge, in being decidedly uncomfortable. That decided discomfort comes from a willingness to be up against challenge. To go up against the edge. To peer into the abyss.

EU: For those of us, I mean, I also am the kind of person that will tend to lean into the challenging conversations or opt into the decided discomfort, as you call it, and make things tough, make things harder in the interest of having things be more real, or in feeling more alive, or in delivering something that is going to better serve the people around me. There's all of those things that exist at the other end of the edge of discomfort.

How can we encourage everyone to lean into those areas of discomfort when realistically, the risk often is worse? The stakes are higher for some people more than others, and I think a lot about privilege. Those of us who are in a privileged enough position to take those risks, what is our responsibility when it comes to encouraging those around us to also take those risks?

TON: I think you need to lead by example. I think that the only people that I'm really going to try and influence, Liz, are the people that love and trust me. Now, I know that we're on a podcast that is going out to Xero Gravity's fans, customers, people that they would like to influence, but what we're trying to do here is spark an idea, spark a conversation, spark awareness. When you know about something, you can care about it, you can understand it and then you can utilize it as a resource in your life.

I think living by example is fundamentally what's important. That when I speak about trying to influence the people that love and trust me, it's that I need to have a connection with them so that what I'm expressing and what I'm sharing is actually reaching them. I feel that that's a state of vulnerability. That's a state where you say, "I'm going to trust you, I'm going to love you, I'm going to respect you, I'm going to listen to you. Even if I feel that you may be wrong, or I disagree. I still want to hear about what it is that drives you". I find passion. Like, to live by example, for me, means to live a passionately engaged existence that is the solution to the problems I perceive in the world.

EU: Somewhere deep down in all of us, despite our differences of opinion, or what may appear as surface values being in conflict, what do you believe is under there that runs through all of us.

TON: What I believe that runs through all of us, Liz, is respiration. That is breathing. Again, the sails of your capacity on your journey in your ship of life is driven by your respiration. That the winds of change emanate from your chest, from your lungs. That if respiration is the most important thing we do, which it's the thing that if you remove it, that your life will end the quickest, that's sort of Maslow's hierarchy. You have to breath, then you would have to drink, then you would have to eat, then you would have to have shelter, perhaps procreate, but what I'm getting at is what lies under existence for me is respiration. I'm a breather first and foremost. Then, it's what am I going to do on top of that? I'm going to lead by example. I'm going to influence myself and then the people that love and trust me. And then concentrically, in rings, there's another one we just added tonight by doing this conversation with Xero Gravity.

EU: Well, thank you so much for joining us on the show. It's always a pleasure to hear your ideas on the small and the vast, so really appreciate reconnecting this way.

TON: Yeah, you got it, and if I could add one last thing, it would be to ‘send word’ more often. By send word, I mean to connect with people in a meaningful and enduring way. Email is fantastic, texting is great. Calls over the phone and Skype are great but my favorite way, is through the written word. I think to send letters, to take the time to sit down and write, address, stamp and post something is to send, not necessarily a love letter, but a life letter. For all those listening out there, my address is P. O. Box 1571 Boulder, Colorado, 80306, USA. Send me a life letter and I guarantee I'll send you one back. Thanks Liz, great to talk with you.

EU: Love you. Thank you.

That was Timmy O'Neill, professional rock climber, guide and comedian. I'm Elizabeth U, producer and host of Xero Gravity, and Alice Brine is creative director. Thanks also to Megan Wright, technical producer and Daniel Marr and Jonny McNee recording technicians and technical editors. If you've got questions, comments or suggestions, you can find me on Twitter, @smallbizwithliz. Thanks for subscribing to Xero Gravity via iTunes or SoundCloud. We'll see you next time.


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