From the Magazine04.03.2015

Miles Hilton-Barber: Life is Not Perfect, but it Can be Marvelous

The blind adventurer inspired us with his views on life and his challenges in a special interview for the readers of PREMIUM Lifestyle.

+5 imagesMiles Hilton-Barber: Life is Not Perfect, but it Can be Marvelous
Interview by Ina Gerdjikova

Adventurer. Motivational speaker. Conqueror of mountain summits, deserts, abysses and great heights. The life of Englishman Miles Hilton-Barber truly seems like a Hollywood movie that makes viewers catch their breath. Flight with a micro plane from London to Sydney, marathon across the Sahara desert or an expedition to the South Pole - there are no impossible feats for Miles Hilton-Barber because he believes that the only obstacles in a man's life are those he places in front of himself. His story is made even more inspiring by the fact that Miles manages to overcome extreme climate conditions and achieve Guinness world records while being totally blind. Hilton-Barber loses his sight at the tender age of 21, which does not stop him from pursuing his goals, instead it motivates him to keep expanding his frontiers. He has lectured in every continent, in a total of 72 different countries around the world and over 900 corporate events. I met Mr. Hilton-Barber before his lecture in Sofia. He arrived in Bulgaria for the first time by invitation of EY. The company organized a special event to present his envigorating story to their friends and partners and to remind their guests that the building of a better (business) world begins with our own ability to venture bravely towards new avenues - to be innovators, leaders, adventurers. A meeting with Miles is a unique and emotional experience that manages to open our minds and souls to bolder dreams. In a special interview for PREMIUM Lifestyle, the blind adventurer tells us about the changes in his life with a wonderful sense of humour and driving home the point, that we are vaguely aware of but often forget in our day-to-day lives - namely that, at the end of the day, everything is really up to us.

Which one of your accomplishments has been most significant to you?
One of my greatest accomplishments is probably that I managed to overcome my claustrophobia. Cramped spaces worried me a lot, so I decided to try diving to a depth of 37m in the Red Sea. I lowered myself into the tightest possible space and felt extremely frightened. In a panic, I desperately wanted to find my way back to the surface so that I could breathe normally again. Despite this need, I stayed down until I could normalize my breathing, thinking, "The air I need is not 37 metres above me, it's right here on my back." I repeated that to myself until I calmed down completely. And look - the word 'fear' can be viewed as an abbreviation of False Evidence Appearing Real. False evidence in our head makes us believe in it and fills us with the fear of doing something. Thinking this way helped me overcome my claustrophobia and brought me incredible joy. It might not sound extremely exciting but, you could say that it is among the greatest accomplishments of my entire life.

You say that the only obstacles in life are those we choose to accept as obstacles. How do we deal with them?
I've noticed that, in life, there are always several ways of doing something. When I lost my sight at the age of 21, everyone told me: "If you are blind, this is a barrier, a handicap." I believed them then. Then I turned 50. At this point, my brother, who had also lost his sight due to the same genetic disorder, had managed to single-handedly build a yacht in his backyard and sail to Australia. Totally blind. Totally alone. Just with voice navigation. It took him 53 days to get to Australia from Africa and he almost died in a storm on the way. This changed my life. I began my expeditions after turning 50, following in my brother's footsteps. He told me, "To succeed, start with the goal, not with the problem." If you have a map of your life, define a space, which you want to occupy and head right to it. Do not undertake efforts towards random paths with the hope that you will reach your desired location. This is the only way to conquer frontiers. People used to tell me, "Blindness is limiting", now I think - maybe it doesn't have to be. I learned how to fly a plane. I knew that everything I needed was information in my head, information I could get not only through my eyes, but through my ears, hands, legs, through voice control and with the help of a co-pilot. The same goes for business - if you want to have more success with your company, do not linger on what happened last year, do not worry so much about profits, the economy and the recession - start with the prospect of how you see your company developing in the future.

You have achieved remarkable world records, travelled to incredible locations and conquered exceptional boundaries - was there ever a moment when you were on the verge of giving up on a challenge? How do you motivate yourself to persevere?
A lot of people give up in the face of difficulty, but I tell them - try again, find another way! Even if you fail - try again! For example, when I ran a marathon through the desert, my legs were very bruised and beat up, but I kept thinking, " I can't run another 250 kilometres through this desert, but before I stop - could I run another 10 metres? How about 20? I can do that." Another thing I learned while I was preparing for my flight from London to Australia: every day I will aim to tell at least one other people about my plans. Even in the face of difficulty, I maintained that, "I will navigate a lightweight plane from London to Sydney." My view of life is that the Maker of this incredible universe which we share, would never allow for you or any other person to be in a situation too daunting or unmanagable. No matter how life provokes us, I believe that there is always a way as long as we do not give up. The problem is that most people believe they cannot accomplish more when they actually can. I have met famous individuals who have accomplished inspiring things and I guarantee that all of these people have faced failure and that they have all taught themselves not to yield to it. Everyone has had bad experiences in their lives, but successful people do not reach their goals because they allowed themselves to be dominated by their problems, but instead, because they stood up to their challenges one time more they gave into them.

How did you decide to share your experience as a motivational speaker? Can you share a story or two about people you have inspired.
Previously, I worked as a career consultant so that I could be useful to people who have lost their sight. When I began speaking in front of people, I thought my message was only relevant to people who had a disability. However, many of the seeing members of the audience came to me and said, "You opened my eyes. You helped me see the world in a clearer way." This made me realize that the lessons living as a blind person has taught me concern a lot of other people as well, not just the blind. I ask people, "Do you have a dream? Do you want to see it realized before you die?" They reply, "Yes", and then I ask them: "Why haven't you done anything about it until now?" In one's life, time passes and it can never be gained back. Stop waiting for things to happen by themselves. Make choices. Do you need money? Make a deposit. You want to climb Kilimanjaro, make your deposit now and in 8 months you will be able to do it. Start saving and eventually you will get there. But you have to make the choice first. All people who accomplished anything in their lives started out as dreamers. Unfortunately, not all dreamers make something of their lives. So do something, don't keep saying to yourself, "Mañana, mañana..." - because with this outlook, tomorrow may never come, it should always be about today.

What is the secret to a balanced life?
There is an Indian saying - the man who cries because he has no shoes meets the man who has no legs. There are always people who are worse off than we are but we continue to blame ourselves that our lives are not perfect. Life is not perfect but it can be marvelous. I have been married 39 years and today I am probably 20 times more in love with my wife than the day we got married. We have three wonderful children, three grandsons - I'm rich, what more could I need. I have someone who loves me and someone to love. How many people can say the same? Wherever I am in the world, I always know that there is at least one person who is thinking of me while I love them and think of them as well. This is true wealth. Having six iPads, iPods and other expensive objects...I meet a lot of rich people, who own many things, but are still very lonely. When I became blind, I was very unhappy, depressed, I couldn't go outside, and now, 40 years later, I am travelling the world, I love my job and I consider myself a blessed person. And I am still as blind as a bat. Consequently, my situation has not changed - time, my bank account, my salary. Today is the most important day. I want to make memories with my wife. I don't want to be the richest person in the cemetery, instead I'd like to leave my family with a huge pile of photo albums.

In keeping with the theme of our Great News Issue, could you share a piece of great news you might have gotten lately and how it has affected you?
A couple of years ago I met a young girl. I met her family while I was on vacation. She was dyslexic and had a very hard time reading. This had made her believe that she would never accomplish anything significant in her life. We talked about many things, I advised her to not allow her condition to keep her from attending university and that she shouldn't listen to those around her. Later I found out that she had been accepted to university, had graduated with a prestigious degree and now holds a very nice job. She is a totally different person - she is travelling around the world and being happy. Yesterday, I got an e-mail from another woman who I met awhile ago - she and her husband were struggling to conceive and yesterday she told me that she has given birth to twins! My advice to them was to get rid of the extra stress in their lives because it was exactly the reason their bodies were closed off to any sort of change. And now they have children, their worries proved completely unnecessary.

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