Episode 13: Jim Harris - The Healing Power of Your Mindset

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Before sustaining a spine injury at the end of 2014, Jim Harris made his living from hard days in the mountains. After 6 years of teaching wilderness mountaineering courses, Jim began creating content in photo, video and written form, for clients like National Geographic, Camp 4 Collective, and Powder Magazine. That is, until he was paralyzed while snow kiting in Patagonia. It took over a week for Jim to reach definitive care in the States where five of his nine broken vertebrae were fused.

After his spine fusion he began to wiggle a toe. Within a few months, muscles in both legs began firing. In the four years since that accident, Jim transitioned from wheelchair to walker to cane and continues to challenge the limitations of his disability. He is now mountain biking and backcountry skiing at a level most able-bodied individuals would only dream of. Be sure to stick around to the end of this one. It’s one of our favorite episodes to date.

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • Why you should aim high in adverse situations

  • The difference between Type I fun and Type II fun

  • The healing benefits of being in flow state

  • How creativity of the arts and outdoors go-hand-in-hand

  • What it really means to be authentic


“In the absence of a prognosis in South America, in the absence of an expert opinion, I was like, ‘well, I’m just gonna aim high here, I guess.’”

“So much of life satisfaction is about having your expectation line up with what actually occurs in life.”

“I never saw myself as a professional athlete before I got hurt, but in hindsight I was usually getting hired for jobs because I could keep up with them.”

“What came up time and time again, was marketing departments being like, ‘Oh, well, we hired you because we really like the authenticity that you convey.’ And that always made me uncomfortable because I don’t know how to deliver authenticity in a photo.”

“One of the outcomes of being so helpless for weeks & months is that vulnerability stopped feeling very vulnerable.”

Thought Experiment:

Sustaining the kind of injury and never losing sight of what is possible is no easy feat. The quote Jim shared at the end is something that we could all benefit from exploring: “your disability is your opportunity.” And while Jim acknowledges it almost sounds cliche, what other option is there? Self-pity? Anger? Regret? While all of these reactions are most certainly understandable, they don’t always lead you where you want to go, if you stay in them forever.

There is a great book on this concept called “The Obstacle Is The Way.” It’s a quick, yet impactful read about Stoic philosophy that ties nicely into this concept if you’re interested in exploring it more. Until then, how can you find opportunity in something that you often see as a disadvantage? Let us know below!