Challenges keep life interesting, conquering them gives life meaning!
I love the freedom of being fit and healthy and I have a passion for running, hiking, swimming, cycling and generally having adventures in the great outdoors. But in 2002 that freedom was taken away from me. I was enjoying a ride home from triathlon training, listening to the sound of the tyres on the road and the hum of the chain over the cogs, enjoying the fresh air rushing over me, then suddenly, silence!
As the muffled sound of chaos came rushing back in, so did the feeling of extreme pain and then as soon as it arrived, it was gone, complete silence again.
I was lying on a spinal board in the emergency room, I’d been hit head on by a car, but I was alive!
It was an incredibly difficult mental, emotional and of course physical journey, made worse since I'd only just got back on my feet. I'd spent the previous five years rebuilding my life after I was medically discharged from the Royal Navy with severe breathing difficulties, and my first attempt at creating a new career after leaving the armed forces failed. I lost all my savings in a business venture, a triathlon and running shop, so now I was broke in every possible way!
I fought many battles during that period and after a few low years, I realised one of those battles was with myself. Something had to change, physically nothing was going to happen over night, I was in pain whether I moved or not, so I chose moving. I started rising early each day at six am to create a new day with new opportunites. I didn’t look at how difficult the task was because I had no idea how long it was going to take, I just focussed on the present and added one step more than yesterday was my focus.
I'd progressed from rehabillitation exercises, to walking, stability and strength work and eventually running. After nearly three years I had my first breakthough and achieved my first goal, I ran a 5k, slowly. I kept working hard doing the best I could, waking at 6am each morning and after almost four years, I ran the Nike 10k, not only running it, I smashed my personal best of forty minutes. It hurt and I cried tears of joy as I crossed the finish line.
After the run I hung up my running shoes. My priority now was to start where I left off and that was to build my technology company and be a success. I wanted financial freedom, (something my parents didn't have), I wanted lots of things, surely I deserved them after what I'd been through. But as I've come to realise, life doesn’t give us what we want, we get what we need to move beyond the limitations we set ourselves, and my next set of challenges weren’t too far away.
Six years afer the accident and quite a few kilograms later, June 2008 was my thirty ninth birthday, I was celebrating life, again! The next morning I read June had the worst numbers of troops killed and injured on record in Iraq and Afghanistan. Images of the wounded returning home and stories of how they challenged their limitations moved me.
I heard about Royal Marine Mark Ormrod on Christmas eve 2007. I was in Plymouth drinking in a friends bar with a few friends, some of which were Royal marines. While we were having fun, at the same time, Mark had lost his limbs when an explosion ripped off both his legs and his right arm in Afghanistan. Mark later ran across the USA and wrote a top selling book called “Man Down”. Marine Ben Mcbean, climbed mountains & started a succesful business. Both guys had lost their military careers they enjoyed and lost their limbs doing it.
Both these guys, were from Plymouth in Devon, as was I. I’d also been medically discharged from the Royal Navy and I’d recovered from a serious accident with spinal injuries. But after my recovery, I’d thrown myself into growing my business, while this was positive, I’d not taken the life lessons seriously as these guys did. I’d lost sight of the positive elements of my situation. I was working too hard, drinking too much and not eating well. I had all my limbs and I had no excuses, not valid ones anyway.
Then a catalyst closer to home gave me the kick I needed. My friends brother had been killed on his bike, Nick and his sister Jo, were raising money and challenging themselves in their brothers name. I was already inspired by the military veterans, so I joined them.
I had changed when I left the Royal Navy and the accident had changed me again, but I was resisting the change, I was afraid to live up to my full potential. I was now almost forty and I felt inspired to prove to myself again that I can achieve goals that I set myself without having to go through so many physical challenges as I had in the past.
Nick and I ran a 10k race, I continued to train hard afterwards and eight weeks later, I ran the Chicago marathon in under four hours, this was my first marathon since the accident, but this time I kept going.
Over the next four years, I ran, swam and biked over ten thousand kilometres (six thousand two hundred miles), I climbed mountains (one I almost died on), completed in ultra endurance events, including twenty four hour runs and the world famous Ironman, which I completed in thirteen hours. I was inspired and I was fundraising and raising awareness for charities too, I was enjoying the life I was creating and the message of inspiration I was sharing.
My social media presence kept growing, and people reached out to me from all over the world with incredible stories of adversity and challenge. Like Gary who lost over 170kgs (300lbs) through cycling, and litterally hundreds of other inspiring stories. I also received articles sent in from health and fitness professionals, doctor's and scientists all wanting to share their knowledge. I was constantly inspired by peoples generosity and had to share this great content in the hope they would motivate others to make a positive change in their lives.
I wanted to help people become more active, live a healthier, more fulfilling enjoyable life and to support charities along the way. There are hundreds of stories and thousands of people who were inspired to push themselves to new levels, sometimes that mean't getting off the sofa, a huge challenge for many and others, like Mark Greenfield, went from running half marathons, to complete one of the toughest foot races on earth across the Sarah desert, crazy stuff.
It was incredible fun and since the website was launched in 2012, the website has received over 1.2 million visitors, we've even won awards, including the very prestigous Shorty Award hosted in Times Square, New York. And as I live in London, this was a huge surprise to win.
It was difficult at first, but I started with only ten minutes a day and after a few months I felt I had a greater sense of self awareness and a much quieter mind. Mindfulness gave me moments of peace I’d had experienced during ultra endurance events, but 10 minutes of mediation is far easier than running for 24 hours. I've studied personal development for over 20 years, I have lots of knowledge, but that knowledge wasn’t transffering into a better life, I started to realise through meditation that maybe my thoughts were part of the problem. I was confronting my fears head on now, this was a huge personal challenge unlike anything I'd experienced before, inner pain can be far worse than physical pain and often we don't even know when people are really suffering.
How do I change my thoughts, these repeating negative patterns? I had no idea how to conquer this challenge. I knew this was one of the most important challenges of my life. I sold the last thing I owned, my house. After the mortgage was paid there wasn't much left, I used the last few thousands to get away for a while, what would I do afterwards with no money? I'd built a million pound tech company from nothing in the past (and lost it), I'm sure I could do it again, (hopefully without losing it this time), I'd deal with that when I got out. So off I went to a retreat, a magical place called Florence House in East Sussex in Southern England. For the next nine days I entered the Hoffman process with twenty three strangers, we completely unplugged from the outside world and immersed ourselves in conquering our mental and emotional challenges, fighting our fears head on.
For a few months afterwards, the adjustment process was difficult. Coming back into the chaos of life, and learning how to respond to everything in a new way was strange. I had a whole range of emotions, but it was neccassary to go beyond my past mental limitations, I was learning the strength of vulnerability. I practised daily using the various tools I'd learned. I removed process foods from my diet, stopped drinking alcohol, removed anything negative from my life including TV and some "friends" and I ran every single morning at 6amCLUB and of course I continued with the meditation each day. I wanted to give my body and mind the best chance to do its thing. I was skeptical of my thoughts and what they were trying to achieve, I learned to listen to myself and I wrote it all down, most of it made no sense, but this entire process helped me to write this story I'm telling you today, just a glimpse into a few chapters of my life that I hope will help others along their journey.
I realised that the many challenges I've experienced in my life were not here to break me, although try telling me that at the time. These difficult times aren't pleasant, and it can be very easy to stay there, to act like the victim of life, blame everything and everyone, I've done all of that and more. The only reason I broke free is because I'd had enough, there comes a point when it really is time to grab life by the horns and say no more. I had to do that, to dig deep many times and rebuild my life with perserverance and focus to change, and change for the better.
Today I live a life to Take a Challenge, to inspire myself and others, to conquer life's challenges and help each other achieve our goals. Life is no longer happening to me, it is happening because of me. I am constantly the source of my own inspiration, even when confronted with difficult challenges. I no longer have a nice day, I wake up and create a great day, every moment is my responsibility and I want to help carry that message to others to help conquer a very difficult challenge indeed.
At present one of the worst global challenges is human health, its an epidemic. Nearly a billion humans are inactive, much of which has been engineered through the advent of new technologies, this is apparently progress. We’ve got machines and computers doing more than ever, yet we’re working harder than ever, in jobs a vast amount of people dislike over the quality of our lives and our families lives. We're sitting at desks inactive for unhealthy amounts of time, we're eating low quality processed foods, we're getting less quality sleep, and mental health is the worst its been for decades, all this is helping to manifest in many different serious human global health issues and our planets health.
Source: World Health Organisation
This is a complex issue but I believe we can start to solve it by going back to basics, simple solutions often have the greatest impact, we need a more whole approach to healthier humans and a healthier planet. I want to help more people get outside in nature and live a more active lifestyle, to eat healthier less processed foods, think less negative thoughts and to create a more socially responsible world that our families, friends and future generations can enjoy and we don’t all need to climb mountains or run ultra endurance events to do it,
I want you to realise that each and every day we get a fresh start, a new opportunity to change what hasn't worked for you, to reach out and grab this opportunity and create a great life for you and those around you. We can live a life of love, passion, creativity, fun, adventure and purpose and we can do it all in a balanced, healthy way.
Help us to inspire the world, together we can make it better!
If we share a similar goal to help create a better world, please contact me. We want to share your stories, how you conqeured your health, fitness and outdoor challenges to go on and dramatically improve your life and how you think and feel about yourself and those around you and the planet you live on.
I'd love share your positive message. I welcome any questions, comments or feeback you may have, please feel free to contact me!
My next challenge is a 700km (425mile) trek from London to Lands End with my girlfriend. Read all about it here and I look forward to you joining us on, either on the trail or reading the story as it unfolds.