One of my earliest memories is that of my dad heading off in a balloon on another one of his crazy world record attempts. I remember sneaking into the capsule to leave a note asking him to make sure he came home because I was terrified that I might never see him again.
I guess the adventurous spirit runs strong in my family, because adventures have also been such a big part of my life – and I can confidently say they have helped shaped me into the person I am today.
I’m not going to lie, I’m a LUCKY man. I have been able to travel the world, meet some incredible people and do some pretty amazing things. But in my late teens, like the majority of people, I had started to question life and the meaning of things.
I just couldn’t shake off the feeling that my life needed a direction, a focus. I didn't have the first clue what that direction was and how to go about finding it, and then the phone rang, and I was offered an amazing opportunity that changed everything!
It was Will Steger – who has led some of the most significant dogsled expeditions in the world. I had joined Will on small trip before and liked him. On the call he filled me in on his next challenge.
He was planning a 1,400 mile dogsled expedition in Arctic to raise awareness of climate change amongst young people in US... and it would take about three months!
Arriving in Baffin Island, I got a huge shock to the system. We were packing up and sorting our equipment and I remember thinking, 'What the hell have I let myself in for?'
The tents were tiny, I literally couldn’t expose any skin outside, I was already exhausted... and I had three months of this ahead of me!
I knew I couldn't get through it in that state of mind, thinking in that way – so I took myself aside and said to myself: ‘You are not just going to do this, you are going to do it with a huge smile on your face.’
Otherwise what’s the point?’
I didn't want to go in to it wishing for it to be over before it had even started.
So I told myself: 'Do your best to make the most of every moment and embrace all the feelings that come with it, good or bad'. And from that point on, I was ready for near enough anything the experience threw at me.
That was the only way to do it. In fact, I believe it’s the best way to approach any challenge life throws at us. The realisation that in most situations in life we have a choice of how to perceive something is empowering.
Perspective with purpose is incredibly motivating and when I embraced the experience of that journey in the Arctic and stopped thinking about the end goal and how far away it seemed, I was set…This perspective has driven me ever since and I try to adopt it in everything I do.
That was one of the key themes I talked about last Sunday at the 2014 Adventure Travel Show at Olympia London. I was incredibly fortunate to speak at the event, and it was heart-warming to see my family and friends, including my beautiful wife and my sister Holly, there.
Since that expedition the bug certainly took hold and I’ve undertaken a few more challenges. I have broken a world record for the most linked runners to complete a marathon, attached to 33 friends; I have cycled from Italy to London as a part of the Dallaglio Flintoff cycle slam and I kite surfed from France to England, achieving the World Record for the fastest cross-channel kite surf.
I believe that setting yourself goals and trying to achieve them is the fastest way to becoming a healthy, happy and confident individual – and the best way to achieve those goals is through a positive perspective and enjoying the journey along the way.
What are your tips on tackling big challenges in life?