An Interview with No Barriers Programs Manager, Nate Gillette
Interview by Jeremy Lux, article written by Eric Gasa
Dedicated to helping others out of their comfort zone and changing life perspectives, No Barriers does exactly what its name implies. From connecting disabled and isolated persons together, to helping military vets get active and back on their feet, No Barriers is almost more of a mantra than an org; a group of people dedicated to a philosophy of connectivity and overcoming adversity together. Gillette sits down with Jeremy Lux on the latest episode of the Life in Motion podcast to discuss the org’s successes and challenges, as well as his own passion for the outdoors.
If there is one thing about Gillette, it’s that he considers himself one of the luckiest guys out there. At No Barriers, his office is the whole outdoors. Growing up in central Pennsylvania, he was super into outdoors recreation and adventure; a passion that his parents encouraged.
“I was inundated with outdoor recreation at a very young age. Our family vacations were always a little atypical and we never did anything like to go Disneyland. It was always, camping or going hunting with my dad,” Gillette shares.
So by the time Gillette made it into the workforce it was kind of natural that he found himself bored and uninspired at the prospects of having to get a technical job. Instead of spreadsheets and paper pushing, Gillette’s head was always in the clouds, or better yet the rapids of whitewater kayaking, and craggy rock climbing cliffs.
But he still gave the conventional lifestyle a shot, working as a machinist for a time, then a manager at a beer distributor. But nothing seemed to stick with him. In all honesty, Gillette admits that he only worked for the weekend. Whenever he was off the clock he was always trying to live life to the fullest hiking, kayaking, or climbing. Before he knew it, adventure sports became his identity. That’s when he realized his full potential.
“There was nothing else on earth I would rather do for the rest of my time,” he says.
Probably to the dismay of his parents, Gillette finally went to Penn State to get his bachelors in outdoor recreation management. His parents were less than thrilled but they certainly had to respect their son’s passion and gusto.
“My parents were like ‘You’re going to college for four years to teach people how to rock climb?’ And I was like, ‘Well, hell yeah. Of course, I’m going to do that.’ I want to chase that dream of never having to work a day in my life.’”
Gillette was right though. For those lucky enough to follow their passions, they will never labor a day.
Though an uncommon degree, Gillette’s education gave him plenty of unique opportunities and connections. In college he got to perform bird shows with bald eagles, owls, and snakes, while in the summers he wrote programs for summer camps. He even got to take active duty soldiers rock climbing and mountain biking for credit. It was around this time that he knew this is what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
But possibly even beyond his love for nature, Gillette simply loves working with people. Which is honestly how he landed his current job with No Barriers. While working as an adaptive ski instructor at the National Sports Center for the Disabled, Gillette worked closely with a skier named Kara who worked with No Barriers. Long story short, Gillette made such a great impression that Kara introduced him to the org’s veteran program director who offered him a job, and the rest is now history.
Today, Gillette is 100% dedicated to his organization and what it stands for.
“I'll read this as it's written is the mission,” he shares, “No Barriers is to fully unleash the potential of the human spirit through transformative experiences, tools, and inspiration. We help people embark on a quest to contribute their absolute best to the world. In the process, we foster a community of curious, brave and collaborative explorers who are determined to live the No Barriers life.”
Whether that be through expeditions into the rugged outdoors, or lazy float trips, No Barriers is meant to provide folks with experiences that will liberate and enrich their lives forever. Lucky for Gillette, he gets hang around for the adventure as well.
Working primarily with veterans, he has had the pleasure of leading teams through the Grand Tetons, four-day river trips down the Rio Grande, and even taking a crack at Mount Baker. All of the program’s trips are fully funded by corporate and private donations alike so the expeditions are cost free for participants.
Gillette says he usually tells people to bring a few pairs of clothes then they’ll take care of the rest. No Barriers also gives the same adventurous opportunities to at-risk kids in the foster system and in low socioeconomic backgrounds. Kids get the awesome opportunity of international travel and trips to help expand their imaginations and perceptions of the world.
In a life of struggle, No Barriers seeks to be the chance of a lifetime for countless people.
“Our whole No Barriers life curriculum is based on harnessing adversity,” shares Gillette. “We came up with this process that’s meant to guide people through life. Identifying adversity, overcoming it, and then celebrating their success.”
It’s an exciting and freeing mantra that Gillette says is meant to help people take their time, count their victories, and savor their successes. It’s certainly a rare viewpoint in today’s high-paced world.
Furthermore, Gillette also reinforces the idea that adversity is meant to be recognized and realized for our own good and not as a sign of defeat. When one door closes, another door opens.
“Just because you’re blind doesn’t mean anything. There’s a million things that you do being blind. Maybe being a racecar driver isn’t one of them, but there is always something else presented to you.”
There may be plenty going wrong in this world but that doesn’t mean there should be a shortage of things going right. Life is short and fleeting, so why don’t we try and make as big of a difference as we can make?
“We only have so much impact on this world as average human beings,” Gillette says, “If you can have a positive impact on the people around you, you’re setting off a butterfly effect that just keeps on giving.”
For Nate Gillette of No Barriers, kindness is contagious.
For more info on No Barriers you can check out their website www.nobarriersusa.org as well as Facebook and Instagram. Nate Gillette is a man with lots of advice and wisdom to give; in fact, too much to possibly fit into just one article. For the full scoop on Nate, including some touching stories with veterans and disabled persons, check out his full interview on the Life in Motion podcast on Apple Podcast and Spotify with Jeremy Lux.