5 lessons Rowing Home taught me in 2015
One of the great things about taking on huge projects is that you learn so much, about so many things as you journey through the process. It’s impossible to get everything right the first time, hindsight is a powerful tool and often wisdom is gained through experience and sometimes making bad decisions. These are the 5 key lessons Rowing Home has reinforced to me in 2015:
1. The power of momentum
There is a Malay expression “Sidikit sidikit lama lama menjadi bukit” which translates into “”A little bit over a long time becomes a hill”
I have been working on ROWING HOME for 1.5 years now, and I could honestly say I cannot remember a single day that has gone by during this period when I have not done something towards the expedition. Be it researching weather, equipment, boats, routes, previous similar attempts, approaching, contacting, meeting potential sponsors, training, learning technical skills, budgeting, team selection, discussing with documentary producers and keynote speaking during the evening to raise funds.
Momentum has both energy and direction. By losing the momentum in a project, you risk making wrong turns as well as making forward progress. Similar to training in the gym, it’s much easier to do a little bit every day rather than attempt to do a massive amount every now and again.
2. The importance of aligning values when building teams
It takes teamwork to make a dream work. When working in teams, we can all share the same vision or end goal but have different ways of achieving this. The methodology of achieving the end goal comes down a great deal to the values of the individuals and the team as a whole. Working with teams who do not share similar values is a bit like trying to drive a car but having multiple people handling the steering wheel – all with different ideas on which direction to head to reach ultimately the same goal. In Rowing Home, I have had to make difficult decisions on team selection, and have found that whilst painful to go through, there is an almost instantaneous surge of momentum and positivity when new team members with more aligned values come on board.
3. Give before you expect to receive.
Raising money for expeditions can be difficult, soul destroying at times, time consuming and on the other hand very rewarding and exciting when you are successful. As well as money, there are many forms of assistance I require and I am lucky to have help from numerous sources, some of whom wish to remain anonymous and some not. One key trait in common from the people who are helping me is the fact I have helped them in some way, at some time along the way. Or at the very least I always try and help them in the future. You are in a much better position to request support from someone whom you having assisted in some way first. I have many examples of this , for instance earlier this week I approached a chap in the UK whom I had never met but wanted a favor. I noticed he was raising money for a cause so made a donation, then sent him a message informing him I loved what he was doing, that I had donated to his cause and then finally asked him for some information. He was very hospitable and helpful in return. I also support other adventurers in many different ways, e.g. logistical support and I am continually being asked for advice on sponsorship. Often these requests I find can be somewhat rude and selfish in their approach (one lady contacted me and ordered me to introduce her to Richard Branson who she was sure would definitely sponsor her quest to climb the seven summits, unfortunately she failed on her first attempt at the first summit and gave up the project). My motivation to assist people with these requests is greatly diminished.
Always be courteous and generous, if you are not, you will find it too late when you actually need something to start pretending you are a lovely person:)
4. Put ‘first things first’.
There are hundreds of tasks to do to prepare for ROWING HOME. But certain ones are more important than others, the ‘mission critical’ requirements which must be met within certain time frames or the expedition would literally die. One of these key tasks for example has been raising S$120,000 to get my boat finished for the expedition. I continually remind myself that without money this expedition will be nothing, and at this stage this is the most important task for my time and energy. The marketing, planning, training, preparation etc are also important however I only have so much time in one day and first things come first!
5. Adventure is amazing but NOTHING beats coming home safely to see your family and friends:)
I love adventure, but it would mean nothing in itself to me without the knowledge I have my beautiful children, wife, extended family and friends to come back too. There is a fine line to balance with serious adventuring and having a happy home life. Many adventurers I know get this wrong and their relationships seriously suffer or are non-existent. My biggest goals in adventuring are to balance pushing my thirst for extreme expeditions with:
a. not getting divorced
b. not going broke
c. not getting killed.
My love of family also pushes me to train and prepare harder in an effort to manage the risk as responsibly as possible.
Happy 2016 everyone!