13 Dec Stepping into the unknown
8 weeks ago I was asked, completely out of the blue, if I would like to row The Pacific Ocean from San Francisco to Hawaii in a Word Record attempt.
For anyone who knows me, that kind of proposition is like a red rag to a bull. But that wasn’t always the case. And even though I jumped at the chance and instinctively knew this was an adventure MADE for me, it doesn’t mean for a second that I know (a) what I’m getting myself in for or (b) that I’m not terrified about doing it.
But what I’ve learned in recent months is that sometimes you have to step into the unknown and figure the rest out later.
When I set up my business, Barreworks, single concept Studios didn’t even exist. I quit my successful career in advertising to re-train in teaching barre and found a Studio space in London to rent. I did that during a recession. Foolish perhaps. I had no idea if it would work out, if London was ready for barre, if I was any good at teaching it, or if the business would last 6 months. But I knew I was spell-bound by the method. I knew that I would work day and night to make a success of it and that I was so passionate about the effects of the workouts that others surely would be. I celebrated our 10th year at that same Studio space earlier this year. And to this day, I maintain that every day, I pretty much made it up as I went along.
When I left my husband of 20 years, I was almost paralysed with fear of managing life on my own. He handled all of our affairs. I didn’t even have my own bank account. I literally didn’t know where to start. But I knew that I would figure it out. People do that every, single day. And above all, instinctively I knew it was the right decision. I took it one system at a time, one spreadsheet at a time, one Sollicitor’s meeting at a time.
When I applied for SAS Who Dares Wins, I was full of doubt. Was I fit enough? Could I really compete on a level with men? Was I too old? Would I risk being ridiculed? But I knew as soon as I saw that applications were open to women, that I had to at least put my hat in the ring. As soon as I had done that, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. At every stage of the application process I felt more and more positive and optimistic.
When I applied to give a Ted Talk, I felt equal amounts of fear and exhilaration. What better platform from which to tell my story? But how utterly terrifying to do it for the first time in such a public and high profile way! Now I’m rehearsing with the Ted coaching team and starting to get butteries of excitement about doing it!
Feel the fear and do it anyway has become a bit of a mantra to me.
And so it’s for that reason (and many others!) that I said yes to rowing The Pacific. Because that’s the first step. And in many ways, the hardest part. And on a day when I rowed 31km in one session, that seems somehow ironic. But the truth is that if you can find the courage to start, you can find the means to carry on and somehow get to the end. Right now, I’m so immersed in planning, fundraising, team building and physical training that I don’t have time to think about the 60ft waves or the shark infested waters. Perhaps that’s a means of self-protection, or, some may say, denial…! But I will cross that proverbial bridge when I come to it and I know from experience that when I do, I will be in a far better place to deal with it.
Placing too much focus on the end point of a challenge, personal goal or ambition can be really overwhelming. Which in turn can prohibit you from even taking a first step towards it. Procrastination is the biggest thief of time. Given the chance, you can talk yourself out of anything – so don’t give yourself that chance. Sign up for a 10km run, a sponsored trek, a new course to get you on your way to having the career of your dreams. It all starts somewhere, but only you can make that first step.
In my more carefree moments, I think about arriving on a 24ft boat in Hawaii with a cracking suntan and muscles on my muscles. I think about the welcome, I think about the prospect of a world record, I think about the incredible memories we will create as a team of four. In my darker moments, I think about being locked in a the cabin during gale force storms, or breaking oars, or running out of food. I think about rowing for 50 days, 2 hours on two hours off and how unbelievably difficult that seems right now. But try not to indulge those musings, I choose instead to focus on the here and now. What I have to do right now, or tomorrow or the day after that to get one step closer to the start (or finish) line.
Break it down. Enjoy the process. TRUST the process and you will realise your dreams. And even if you don’t, what you learn along the way will be life changing