College student. Communications studies major. Motivational speaker. Now a first-time author. Soon-to-be summiteer of Kilimanjaro.
The list of descriptors applicable to Timothy Conners is all the more impressive when two more are considered: blind cancer survivor. At 15, he was diagnosed with a blood cancer known as T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia that eventually robbed him of his vision.
Earlier this month, Conners, now 22, released his debut book, titled “It’s Impossible Until You Do It: Succeeding in the Face of Adversity.” Part autobiography and part personal philosophy, the text is intended to present his outlook on living a fulfilling and meaningful existence.
"I wanted to do something that told you about my life, but I also didn't want it to just be that. I wanted to teach what I'm speaking about," Conners said.
More than that, the sale of every other book will go toward raising funds for his upcoming trek up Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania — the highest mountain in Africa. That effort, which he’s dubbed MounTimPossible, is itself meant to raise money for charitable distribution.
“I really like to pay it forward. So many people and organizations have helped me get to where I am today,” Conners said.
ALIVE and climbing
“It’s Impossible Until You Do It” sets the context for Conners’ philosophy with several early chapters devoted to his life and trials fighting cancer. Then he delves into his five key principles of how to be ALIVE:
Adventure outside your comfort zone
Live in alignment with who you are
Incorporate others in your life
View the world optimistically
Experience the life you want to live
"Through those five points, I really try to teach the things that have made me successful, in an order that makes sense,” Conners said. “Because if you don't take on some of them first, you're going to have a more difficult time with the others."
The book also helps build on Conners’ expanding foray into inspirational public speaking. He’s had opportunities to engage a handful of non-profit audiences around the country in recent months.
"I really like that audience. They seem to get the most value out of what I do, because they have those experiences and they can see – whether its blindness, or cancer, or other struggles in their life – Tim was there, and now he's here,” Conners said. “And that gives them hope."
Spreading hope is also a major factor in the MounTimPossible endeavor up Kilimanjaro, which Connors will embark on in late May, just after graduation from Ithaca College. The idea came to him while attending a youth leadership conference in 2015, during which a video was played featuring someone climbing the mountain.
Conners, who said he hadn’t adventured outside his comfort zone since a trek through the Grand Canyon in 2014, decided then and there to take on the mountain. He was also fresh off finishing a program through No Barriers, an organization founded by Erik Weihenmayer, who is the only blind person to reach the top of Mount Everest. The organization aims to inspire folks to unleash their full potential on the world.
"At first [climbing Kilimanjaro] was really just about that in a lot of ways. To kind of show that I wasn't just a one-hit wonder; that cancer wasn't my story,” Conners said. “My story was just beginning, and I was going to go on, and set goals, and do things in my life that most people – even without being visually impaired or having had cancer – won't even necessarily dream to go on and do, because they don't think it's possible."
The purpose has evolved since, and No Barriers is now one of the organizations that Conners is raising funds for with his climb. Other beneficiaries will include the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital, the Joe Andruzzi Foundation and the Michael Napoleone Memorial Foundation. Conners, through his MounTimPossible LLC, has partnered with K2 Adventure Foundations for the endeavor. The dream goal is $500,000, which will also cover the costs of flights and the expedition up the mountain, but he said he’ll be content with whatever amount comes in.
“This is about giving back. If we only raise $50,000 and don't go, then I've said 'OK, we don't go,’” Conners said. “But I'm still giving all that money to these organizations because they not only deserve it, but I think they need it to keep doing what they do.”
Conners also hopes both his new book and his coming trek up Kilimanjaro serve as inspiration to anyone who may be in need of some in their lives.
"We have our bodies, and we're not going to get another one. So we can either fail at trying to be someone we're not, or we can succeed and become the best we can be, which is a lot greater than sometimes we think," Conners said.
“It’s Impossible Until You Do It: Succeeding in the Face of Adversity” is available through Amazon. Proceeds of every other book sold will go toward the climb up Kilimanjaro. More information can be found at www.MounTimPossible.com.