I’ve always been viewed as a confident sort of person. At least, that’s what people tell me — that I seem very sure of myself, clear and strong; and the one I get most, and not always in a complimentary way, “capable.”
But it doesn’t feel that way to me very often, especially since leaving the corporate world to seek deeper experiences. Sure, when there are clear rules and KPI’s and stuff, I can knock them out of the park. But when I’m setting my own goals, and finding my own way in life, I’m more like a kitten with a first ball of wool - it looks awesome and I can see it would be fun, but bugger me if I know what to do with it.
It’s an entrepreneur/adventurer/artist specific problem, that: forging a way into a world most of us haven’t really seen and definitely haven’t been encouraged to pursue, but we just know on some level is a little bit more right (and that secretly excites the pants off us).
Last year, I got a little sick of that kitten/wool/“WTF do I dooooooo?” struggle. So I decided to look for the biggest, hardest, funniest goal I could set myself and bloody well go and get it. I settled on riding a bicycle rickshaw further than anyone ever had, along one of the toughest changeable environments on Australia’s north east coast, at the hottest time of the year.
The journey had “rookie” written all over it, from the overpacking of gear and initially self conscious clothing choices (hellooo serious sunburn!), to the naivety around accrued climbs through mountain ranges (115m is the highest ascent? That sounds fine!).
Riding from the tropical rainforest lushness of Queensland’s Port Douglas, following the “coastal” highway, which actually covered 1,672km of drought stricken bush, I pedalled a Trisled rickshaw to Australia’s whale watching capital, Hervey Bay. This morning I received confirmation that I am now the Guinness World Record holder for the Longest Distance on a Rickshaw by a woman. It’s the biggest self-set goal I have ever accomplished.
Achieving it has taught me the deepest, most profound things about myself and about nature, and especially about my place in it. But if you are someone looking to achieve a world record yourself, or any large goal, here are my best possible tips.
5 Helpful Things
1: Research, But Not Too Much
The best advice I received at the beginning was to never find out just how hard it would be. I Googled my heart out, checking out the route and basic survival requirements. But had I known just how terrfying it is to share narrow roads with massive B-Double trucks, or how it feels to be assaulted by dozens of sharp-beaked magpies every day, or what it’s really like to get a fully laden rickshaw up a steep hill in a head wind; there is no way I would have done it. And that would be the deepest disappointment — to have avoided it because it was hard. And it was hard, but by god was it breathtakingly beautiful (literally).
So, look stuff up. But don’t listen to the guy that tells you there’s a hill there that’s even hard for truck to scale, or Google Earth every single bit of the trip. Just make a line on a map from point to point, and go.
One hot tip though, from one rookie to another, is to always check seasonal wind directions. It may save you a lot of swearing.
2: Get The Right Gear
I was so grateful to have with me my Hammock Bliss Sky Tent 2 (the 4th iteration, an incredibly well designed piece of gear), because it converted to either hang in the trees or be used on the ground as a swag; this meant I could sleep in rainforest, scrub and (almost) treeless plains equally easily. With anything less appropriate I’d have struggled to sleep well, and without sleep I could not go on. A great GPS and camera investment and appropriate clothing also made the world of difference.
However, I balanced this sensible choice-making with using a $2 pair of sunglasses the entire time, and going on telly wearing an embarassing outfit consisting mainly of padded lycra bike shorts, sweat and pigtails.
Sleep, hydration, nutrition and sun protection are the non-negotiables — get advice on these from someone who’s done it.
Everything else is secondary. Especially vanity.
3: Tell Everybody
From the moment I dreamt of this adventure, right up to record confirmation this morning, I had this deep secret voice telling me I’d fail. Also, completely embarass myself and show myself to be the untalented fraud I secretly believed I was. Most of us hear this voice at some time, and mine often drowns out other coexisting personalities (some of whom are dressed as armadilloes or cartwheeling across a cloudscape in glee. I like those ones the best).
By telling everyone, friends, family and virtual family, as well as the people I met along the route, it helped me to counteract this negative-nelly voice every day.
Confidence is about practise. Tell freaking everybody — there is no shame in failure. There’s not even shame in not feeling ready or strong. Shame needs to be taken off the table, and replaced by inspiration.
Need to remember your own brilliance? Check out The Awesome Anthem, and bask.
4: Protect Your Mental Space
When testing extreme self-limits, mental space needs to be a sacred temple, deserving of the highest protection and conscious effort. It’s just a fact that you will be met regularly with reactions ranging from incredulous (“you are not!”), to disbeliving (“oh right…”), but more often than anything else, fearful (I heard “but… you are going to die!” more times than I could count). You need to have an impenetrable, Sherlock Holmes-esque Mind Palace capable of bouncing this stuff off and maintaining equilibrium, because nothing will kill your dream faster than fear.
Finding a team of inspirers to back you up is totally valuable. Just one person who can give a cheer for each tiny milestone (BYO pom poms a bonus!) can help keep a solid foundation for enduring the challenges of the journey.
But above all, don’t be afraid to simply hang up the phone, or walk in the other direction, from a convo that doesn’t boost you up.
5: Go Now
No, I didn’t train. I hadn’t even been on a rickshaw, ever. I did a couple of short pushbike rides the week before, but it was woefully poor prep. I didn’t actually want to prepare, I just wanted to go from being behind a desk for 15 years, to riding a rickshaw for up to 11 hours a day for almost 2 months straight. And I’m glad I did it that way.
Training would have made me faster (most times with the seasonal headwinds and constant hills I went slower than walking pace) and would have made me stronger (nothing hurts like knees after a day of uninitiated hill climbs!), but I also would not have had the chance to find out what I could do when starting from zero. And this was a huge contributor to the glee I feel in having achieved my goal.
Prep can also be an excuse for waiting. There is no energy denser than waiting — it slows down time and makes us sluggish. Get your gear, get up and go. “Train on race day” — you’ll feel so much more filled up and accomplished.
The 1 & Only Essential
Self love. Self belief, self praise, self comfort, self encouragement. Self responsibility, on every level, is the core difference between making the finish line and giving up.
On the hard days I became very aware of my internal negotiation process, and how to use it to my advantage instead of my detriment. It’s so easy in life to negotiate ourselves down a level, instead of negotiating up. It’s easy to be judgemental instead of congratulatory, or focused on failings instead of strengths.
The motto I used most was “just keep going forward, however slowly, however softly. Just keep going forward.” I said it sometimes hundreds of times a day. Instead of hurling myself off the seat into the dirt in a fit of sobs, I surprised myself by getting to my campsite, exhausted but proud.
You’ll find your own way of using your internal negotiator in a kind and ambitious way instead of a cruel and fearful way, and you’ll find your own motto. And this for me is the best thing an adventure can teach.
But in the end, no matter the prep, the team, the research or the route, no one can push, pull, or climb the heights for you.
Be kind, and be ambitious, and you can do anything.