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Podcast With A Blindness Perspective.

Nov 28, 2018

Show Summary:

Full Transcript Below

Daniel Berlin joins Jeff in the Blind Abilities Studio to talk about phase 5 of his Team See Possibilities 7 continents in 7 years goal. New Zealand is the next target for Team See Possibilities.

[caption id="attachment_4090" align="alignleft" width="300"]Image of TeamSee Possibilities walking the Great Wall of ChinaTeam See Possibilities walking the Great Wall of China 2017[/caption]

Last year it was China and the Great Wall, another was climbing Kilimanjaro, and as you can gather, these extreme endurance events gain the attention of many throughout the world, Alison, Brad, Charles and Dan get most energized when they are able to meet with children who are blind and vision impaired. Each event includes visits to blind schools, parents and teachers of the blind.

Over the last 5 years, Team See Possibilities has raised over $100,000 to support children who are blind around the world. And they have been busy working on a Global Scholarship initiative that will launch in early 2019. This scholarship program is aimed at blind students wanting a college education and have a drive to succeed.

 

You can find Team See Possibilities on the web at www.TeamSeePossibilities.comCheck out their schedule of events and find out how you can support the Team’s mission.

 

 

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Full Transcript:

 

Dan Berlin:
We're on our fifth continent now, and taking on our fifth endurance challenge, this one in New Zealand.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Please welcome Dan Berlin, Team See Possibilities.

 

Dan Berlin:
It's the challenge itself that brings out the strength in us.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Blind ultra-marathon runner, extreme endurance athlete, co-founder of his own company, and blindness advocate.

 

Dan Berlin:
To see the possibilities, not the limitations, our message is always about letting each individual find their true own self human capacity, human potential, and help them to recognize that.

 

Jeff Thompson:
You can find out more about Dan Berlin and the foundation at teamseepossibilities.com.

 

Dan Berlin:
The barriers and challenges are there for someone with a visual disability, but they're not insurmountable. It's just, we always learn how to attack the problem from a different angle.

 

Jeff Thompson:
For more podcasts with the blindness perspective, check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com, and download the free Blind Abilities app from the app store, that's two-words, Blind Abilities.

 

Dan Berlin:
For anyone who likes Lord of the Rings, almost all of that film was filmed around that area. Basically we're running around Mount Doom.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Now, here's Dan Berlin. We hope you enjoy. Welcome to Blind Abilities, I'm Jeff Thompson. Today we got a special guest who's taken off to New Zealand. He's a blind endurance athlete. His name's Dan Berlin.

Thank you, Dan, for taking the time in such a crunch moment and coming on to Blind Abilities.

 

Dan Berlin:
Oh thank you Jeff. Thank you for having me.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Oh, you bet. It's a pleasure to have you on. Can you tell people what you've been doing? You got seven countries, seven years, but you're doing something that's bigger than just the event itself.

 

Dan Berlin:
Definitely. This started out as a recreational activity in the extreme sense with three of my friends and I looking to run rim-to-rim-to-rim in the Grand Canyon. We did that four years ago. After that, it was so impactful that we decided to form a non-profit called Team See Possibilities. Since then, we've been taking on once a year, epic endurance challenges around the world with the mission of supporting children who are blind in each country that we go to. We're on our fifth continent now, and taking on our fifth endurance challenge, this one in New Zealand. We leave tomorrow evening.

 

Jeff Thompson:
You're going to be doing an endurance marathon. I mean, it's not just around the track 26-miles, this is something quite different.

 

Dan Berlin:
Yeah. We like to find things that are challenging. As any of us who have limited, or no sight know, uneven surfaces to the extreme of trying to run on the trail is about as challenging as it gets. That's kind of right in our wheel-house. We put ourselves in these tough situations and try to figure out how to get through it. Each time we attempt one of these runs, we're learning as we go, adapting, to different techniques of guiding. I've learned so much on the fly about how to deal with different situations as they present themselves, and doing it safely, and really relying on others, working together as a team to do these things that seem impossible at the time. Then we find a way to get them done.

 

Dan Berlin:
Then we try to take that message and share it, especially with parents, educators, children who are interacting, or who are visually impaired themselves, and really say that this is tough. It's hard to go through school. It's hard to think of a career when you have limited sight, but the reality is that the challenge can actually make us stronger. It's just like when we do train for an endurance event, when we do train for a marathon, we don't jump off the couch and run it, we have to put ourselves through all sorts of challenges in order to build up that endurance to be able to tackle the goal that we want to obtain. We use this analogy in taking on some of these tremendously hard endurance challenges, to really say, "It's the challenge itself that brings out the strength in us."

 

Jeff Thompson:
Doing such feats as this brings a lot of attention to it. You kind of relay into bringing attention to blindness, and the orphanages, and people involved in those countries.

 

Dan Berlin:
Yeah, definitely. We spend a lot of time with schools. Spend a lot of the time with children who are blind, and also their peers, their communities, their educators. So often it's about not coming in with pre-set expectations, or a very low bar of what somebody's capable of achieving. Our message is always about letting each individual find their true own self, human capacity, human potential, and help them to recognize that. So often it's the most well-meaning adults in the child's life that put up these roadblocks around them, or guardrails might be more ... to say to keep them safe. In so doing, oftentimes, limit their own self-beliefs on what can be accomplished, or what they can truly achieve. That's what we try to knock down.

 

Dan Berlin:
Professionally, I co-founded the Vanilla Extract Company, been CEO here for years. We actually just made a transition with the company, so now I'm back into a very large corporate environment. You know, the barriers and challenges are there for someone with a visual disability, but they're not insurmountable. It's just we always learn how to attack the problem from a different angle.

 

Jeff Thompson:
When you attack this problem of the trail ultra-marathon, you're not just going to run one, you decided to do two in a week.

 

Dan Berlin:
Yeah. You know what that say, that expression about you become the average of your peers? The real true test of that is to pick incredible peers to be hanging out with. When I got together with this team, if you said the bar was two-feet high, they looked at it and said, "Well, that's the first one, the real one's four-feet high." They're always upping the ante, and that's great for me, because we push each other to achieve things that we're not sure if we know we can do. When we go into these things, we never really know that we're going to accomplish it. That's what makes it so special when we do. This time, in New Zealand, we're taking on the Tongariro Circuit in the north island, which is about a 27-mile run. For those that love Lord of the Rings, if you picture Mount Doom, we're basically running around Mount Doom. Yeah, so you can imagine how rugged that terrain is in the films, that's where number one ...

 

Dan Berlin:
Then, for after leaving the north island, we head to the south island and take on the world-famous Milford Track. For this one, we're going to start by kayaking a few kilometers to the start. This is traditionally a four-day hike, about 33 miles. We're going to run it, actually reverse, to the normal route that's taken. It gets a lot of climbing, and the rugged terrain in there in the first half, and take that on, in less than a day.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Less than a day?

 

Dan Berlin:
Less than a day.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Wow.

 

Dan Berlin:
We're not bringing sleeping bags, so it's going to be pretty cold and wet if we don't make it.

 

Jeff Thompson:
There's the incentive. There you go.

 

Dan Berlin:
Exactly. That's what they say.

 

Jeff Thompson:
It's great what you do. I know you started this a while ago. This is number five out of the seven, right?

 

Dan Berlin:
Yeah, this is five of the seven.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Five continents. Last year you did the Great Wall, and wow, Kilimanjaro.

 

Dan Berlin:
Yeah.

 

Jeff Thompson:
The list goes on.

 

Dan Berlin:
It's great. Each time we go to one of these countries, we have the opportunity to speak at schools, to talk with children who have vision loss, and parents and teachers, and communities in which they live. So we always get lots of ability to interact with many communities, and to really spread our message of ability, and not pre-judging. The whole goal is to just blow up these perceived notions of what someone with a disability is capable of doing.

 

Jeff Thompson:
And let them see the possibilities as in the name Team See Possibilities.

 

Dan Berlin:
Exactly. We want everyone, the individual themselves, and those around them to see the possibilities, not the limitations.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, just like you said in other times when we've talked, you said, "You don't think about what you can't do, you think about what you can do," I like that attitude.

 

Dan Berlin:
Yeah. It's exactly. I mean, in the workplace, so often we focus on enhance your strengths, play to your strengths, take advantage of your strengths, do whatever you can to diminish your weaknesses, that's so often in many things, whether it's a sport, business, personally, that's what leads to success. For someone with a vision impairment, like myself, yeah, a significant weakness is the fact that I can't see what I'm doing. Mitigate that weakness, find an awesome team. I have three fantastic guides and play to my strengths. In my case, my strengths are the love and ability to do some of these endurance challenges and make that most of that.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Why don't you give a Team See Possibilities a shout-out right now? I think they're great. I've watched those videos, and wow, it's just neat seeing what they do for challenges along with you. Cause you seem like they're either crazy guy, and they're there with you though.

 

Dan Berlin:
Oh, sometimes I think I am the sane one in the group.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Oh wow.

 

Dan Berlin:
So it's awesome. We were first started with Charles Scott, longtime friends, been friends for almost two decades now. When I first got into just running, my goal was really to start running and get to a 5k, this was about nine years ago. I had no idea of getting into endurance sports at the time. I was in my late 30s, feeling down, gaining weight, had started a new enterprise, new company, and was feeling pretty low about my physical health, and just decided to go out and start running to try to get back in shape. Charles is really the inspiration to take it a step further and try a marathon. He's one of the main drivers of the team.

 

Dan Berlin:
Brad Graff is a longtime friend of Charles, and invaluable teammate. Brad is our logistics guru. He takes care of everything, packing list, plan-wise, transportation, gets us to where we need to be, keeps us on time. It's absolutely fantastic. Alison Qualter Berna is our third team member, and she's really the heart of the team. Alison brings so much compassion and joy to everything she does, that being out there together makes it so enjoyable. Then the four of us, we support each other. We all have our high points, and we all have our low points. It's all about doing this as a unit and being together.

 

Jeff Thompson:
You really caught my attention when I heard about ... when you ran the rim-to-rim, the Grand Canyon. Like one foot to the left would have been thousand feet down. You ran the ... First blind person to ever do that. Let's see there is South American, there's China, Kilimanjaro, there's Europe coming up next year, but I saw on your list of number seven is Antarctica.

 

Dan Berlin:
Antarctica is the big one. We systematically put Europe as number six, because if the opportunity opens up for us to be able to Antarctica next year, we're sure we can find a way of doing Europe the following year. That is the big one. We haven't determined exactly what Antarctica looks like yet. It's expensive. It's time-consuming. It's a pretty incredible place to be. That is going to be the capstone of this journey.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, the thing about at the South Pole, if you go 10 miles north, 20 miles east, or west, you're still on 10 miles from the South Pole.

 

Dan Berlin:
I know. It's pretty cool.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, mind-boggling is what I see this as. You guys are out there, you're a team. I like that team spirit that you have, you talk about, and what you're doing for all the communities, and that you get involved with. You're doing something else this fall, not only running two ultra-marathons in one week, but you're starting something very special this fall, why don't you tell the listeners about it.

 

Dan Berlin:
Definitely. In our travels around the world, we often speak at schools, and have been giving financial donations, contributions to school-by-school as we visit them. We started a music program in a school for the blind in Lima for instance. We helped buy supplies for an integrated school for the blind in Tanzania. What we want to do is create a more meaningful, lasting impact on the blind community, and those that interact with them. In thinking about it, we thought, tackling this transition, for youths, from high school, into college, and helping students obtain a meaningful secondary education. Now this is not for everyone, this is for the students that have the will, and the tenacity, and the fight to go and take on the college education.

 

Dan Berlin:
I know from experience, it's very challenging. It's hard enough to understand where should we go? Where can we get accepted? What should we major in? The expense, and the cost of going. Now layering on top of that, the challenge of having to figure out how you're going to get around campus. What type of support will I need in the classroom? Will my professors understand if I can't see what they're presenting, or the video that they're showing? These stresses are just in the added level of challenge that just requires additional hard work and tenacity to get it done.

 

Dan Berlin:
What we're starting up is a scholarship program at least where we can to help offset the cost of students that want to take on this challenge. We'll be rolling this out first quarter of 2019. Probably looking to take applications by March or April of 2019 for the fall of next year. Our goal is to be able to offer five $5000 scholarships. We targeted it around both New Zealand, and the United States for this year. The long-term goal of the project is to identify and create meaningful pathways for a student with vision-loss, or no sight, through a university program, into a career path, and be able to have mentors, and folks that have done it, that have navigated those waters before, available to help mentor, and just to be there as resources.

 

Dan Berlin:
Again, really, this is when a student approaches a professor in a freshman year of biology class let's say, and can't see the screen, having them have somebody that they can talk to and ask about, "How did you do it?" I think that will be very powerful, and really getting back to our mission about supporting children with vision loss and helping them achieve their maximum potential. Sometimes we get stuck trying to solve the problem when there's a solution, but if we can prevent having to reinvent the wheel every time, that's what we're after. This isn't for everyone, but this is for those that are really looking to get out there and go through a university program, and not quite sure all the roadblocks they're going to face. We're looking at initially financial support, and eventually building this into a lot more peer-to-peer mentoring support.

 

Jeff Thompson:
I really like what you say as a career pathway, a pathway for other people to follow. Like you said, reinventing the wheel, every person that comes along, they think they're the only person in the world that has ever done this, but just like when the next blind person gets to the top of Kilimanjaro, there's probably a little piece of braille up there that says, "Dan Berlin was here."

 

Dan Berlin:
I tell you, I mean, when I take on these challenges, I research the trail, and I look for anyone else who's vision impaired that has done similar things before, part of the trail, or similar type things, and ask them. That's one of the ways I met Jack Chen. Years ago, I called him when I was looking at going up Kilimanjaro, cause I read that he climbed it several years ago. I really asked him, I said, "Well what was it like? What was the trail like? How did you handle this? How did you handle that?"

 

Jeff Thompson:
Oh wow.

 

Dan Berlin:
To be able to provide that level of ... Somebody there to be able to be supportive, and just be that sounding board for a student to be able to ask, "Well, how did you get through a course that's all dealing with quizzes, and clickers, and you have to see the screen to enter the number, and which one you choose?" Little practical issues like that, that are the reality in college today. If we can solve some of those issues without having to involve ... Sometimes we don't like the stigma of having to involve university services, or to make a big to-do about special accommodations.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Sometimes there's just that little thing that gets you past something that you go, "Oh, that's it?" It's just a little simple thing. What I was going to say earlier is there's ... someone's going to get to the top of Kilimanjaro and find a braille Dan Berlin was here, but now I'm corrected, now it's going to say Jack Chen and Dan Berlin were here.

 

Dan Berlin:
Yeah, exactly. I mean that's how I met Jack. Jack is a fantastic person. He and I have such similar beliefs, and attitude towards life, and the way we view things.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Well, you guys did the Race Across America last year ... well this year, 2018.

 

Dan Berlin:
Yeah.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Wow.

 

Dan Berlin:
Yeah, it was the past June.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Two big major feats.

 

Dan Berlin:
I know. Time goes by.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Wow. Well Dan, I know you got to get packing, heading out to New Zealand for that endurance flight. I just want to thank you so much for coming on here, sharing. If you want to read more about Dan and his Team See Possibilities, it's teamseepossibilities.com on the web. Congratulations on the Race Across America. Good luck to you and your team, Team See Possibilities when you head to New Zealand, and accomplish your goals.

 

Dan Berlin:
Yeah, thank you very much Jeff. I really appreciate having the opportunity to share this with you, and the other listeners.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Oh great. I'm looking forward to hearing about it. I talked to you earlier, it was like, "What? You're going to New Zealand? Now what's up?" It's like, wow, that's really cool. I want to say if you get a chance to go onto the website, there's some videos there that just explain doing the wall. It's not just a path, the wall is not a path. There's obstacles, there's some parts that are perfect, picture perfect parts, but you kayaked in the morning, you climbed ... oh it was like, "Wow, this is really cool." There's other videos on there too. Just good information on there, and hopefully people can get a chance to go to your website and check it out.

 

Dan Berlin:
Oh, thanks Jeff.

 

Jeff Thompson:
I'm excited for you. I'm excited for your team. Good luck to all of you.

 

Dan Berlin:
Ah, thank you Jeff. I think this is fantastic. I really appreciate this, such short notice, this is great.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Safe travels man.

 

Dan Berlin:
Thanks Jeff.

 

Jeff Thompson:
All right.

 

Dan Berlin:
Take care.

 

Jeff Thompson:
Bye-bye. Be sure to check out Team See Possibilities on the website at www.teamseepossibilities.com. I'm sure we'll get back with Dan Berlin when they return, and some other exciting news as they start to launch the global scholarship project from Team See Possibilities. Once again, I want to thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed. Until next time, bye-bye.

 

[Music] [Transition noise]

When we share

-What we see

-Through each other's eyes...

 

[Multiple voices overlapping, in unison, to form a single sentence]

 

...We can then begin to bridge the gap between the limited expectations, and the realities of Blind Abilities.

 

Jeff Thompson:        

For more podcasts with the blindness perspective, check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com on Twitter @BlindAbilities, download our app from the App Store. Blind Abilities, that's two words, or send us an email at info@blindabilities.com. Thanks for listening.