As this Simon and Garfunkel classic is on my mind I’m thinking it’s time to follow the little signs
This line from “Homeward Bound” came to mind as I was sitting at Oxenholme Lake District station earlier this evening, waiting the extra hour for the correct train for my Advance ticket. My destination was London Euston, but it’s life beyond that platform that is on my mind as I write this post.
I am thinking more outward bound, and it’s not just because it is the charity we climbed Scaffell Pike for today with Michelle Ellison or because I finally conceded defeat this week in my goal to do the Outward Bound course in my homeland, New Zealand, this November.
I’ve got new plans and London is the first casualty of these plans. Even a urinal told me today that it’s the right moment to use my the unique set of circumstances to have a really positive year from here.
This day in 2015 and now
A year ago today, Daniel Carter’s dropped goal secured the World Cup for New Zealand. I was in the pub in West Hampstead on my own watching the game and downing pints. I was unemployed and far from happy with life.
A year on, I was in a far better place, mentally and geographically, in the Lake District to support the mission of Michelle, a kiwi girl from Auckland, and her friends Tom and Andy, to climb the highest peak of each European country.
Today, in the mist and drizzle, she completed peak 15, and while the other 31 Scaffell climbers have a lovely pub meal, I’m on a long, delayed train trip back to London, after a ten-hour trip up to the Lake District last night. I’m pretty tired but with the energy to write, I’m using this blog, as a way of asking myself ‘what am I doing with my life, right now?’.
The things that matter to me
In September, the day after my 41st birthday, I was with Michelle and my mum paddling near Windsor when she mentioned this day, that she would be climbing England’s highest peak. I already knew that I needed to be at Escape the City in London tomorrow, but that didn’t seem a good reason to not say ‘yes’ to Michelle.
You see, when me and Chris Barnes organised the Quapaw 24 Big Paddle in April, I know Michelle was exhausted yet it did not stop her saying ‘yes’ to joining us. I thought about this only this afternoon, which makes me even more pleased I made it my mission get a handful of people to join the climb this weekend.
It also gives an insight into my philosophy in life — I don’t say no to people I care about and I do my best to keep my commitments. Tomorrow’s event at Escape the City is about making an impact in our careers, and I’m going along to explore more about how I can turn these sorts of qualities into something meaningful and lasting, learning from two people I admire greatly, Emily Penn and Ben Keene.
It’s been through getting to know people like Michelle and other friends like Mel Joe and Nigel Amos who climbed with us today, that has given me the confidence to think really hard about how I am spending my time. As I mentioned a couple of weeks back, Nick Millar is another guy that has been a constant source of support this last year, with all his encouragement with the Big and LittlePaddles.
So what of my real destination then?
Last weekend at Yestival I started mulling over the idea of what I will loosely call an ‘impact year’. I have been in a good space lately after a 100-day detox helped to dramatically improve my sleep and although my mind is over active as a result, I’m in position to ‘see the little signs’ as Rina Quinlan likes to say.
The signs are everywhere, yes, even in a urinal today, and my place has become clear now.
I have even been able to pen a personal manifesto that has helped me make sense of all the thoughts I have had over a very long period of time.
The message below, from the person that knows me best from my working life and remains my closet friend in work, was an additional boost when I was feeling downcast about the outcome of the personal coaching and story telling work I had put two months of work into:
“You are someone that gets shit done. Works bloody hard. Is committed, passionate and loyal. Builds teams. Asks the stupid questions. Equally comfortable when challenging the status quo as is to simply executing a plan. And believes in always learning and improving”.
So that’s me — what to do with it?
The first thing to say here is that I am reminded of a lesson in business from the 1970s world champion surfer Shaun Tomson, who I met at Investec in 2014: “don’t fight against the rip tide”. So I am not going to.
Everyone that I spend time with and everything I have observed is telling me life is changing, from what it was a few years back. The essential trends in 2016 are project-based work, virtual working, lower incomes, lower costs and cheaper, more flexible living.
I am used to being a one-contract, physically-located man in my work and this has caused me a great deal of anxiety this year, despite my inane desire to have a place to go. This has meant that I’ve been sitting back watching these trends unfurl their sails while also being under utilised at work.
This is about to change, it’s time to make an impact.
I’m outward bound to a little town called Cascais
On 24 November I am flying out to Lisbon ahead of taking the keys to a house that I have rented in the Portuguese seaside town of Cascais for the winter, at least the first part of it. The house sleeps six people, has three bathroom and a lovely garden.
My intent is bring together a group of people to have an awesome living experience. Not a good one, a brilliant one. To “build a team”.
This IS happening, the house is paid for and I can’t wait to get down there to “work bloody hard” on something I am “passionate” about that “challenges the status quo” of how we live life in London. I am “committed” to this project as I am bewildered about how hard it is to see people in and near London.
I want to change this from months to minutes and so the goal is to get some of the people that I know that a part of the trends I mentioned above to come to join me to create a proper living experience. To try a new, better way of escaping the shit living many of us experience in London.
I think I can do it because all the feedback I obtained over the last two months points to my strengths being in creating an ‘eclectic’ group of people (not my word), that like each others’ company. LittlePaddle has given me the sense I am good at creating community.
We’re off to a great start with the first two weeks full already and we’re about to confirm an extra week over Christmas and New Year.
It’s still scary but it feels right and I’ll be giving it my best shot because the people that have agreed to join me believe in the idea. That’s the shot of confidence I needed.
For now though, with my train stuck on the platform at Preston with no sign of leaving soon, I just hope I get back to London and manage to get some sleep before Impact Day at Escape tomorrow.
It really could not have come at a better moment.