2. Dealing with doubts

When we last left me I was still on the couch, but now very keen to change my situation. But how? All I knew is that I was looking for a big challenge to help straighten my life out.

A few days later I saw an item on the news about the last person to complete the trans-Atlantic rowing race. And when I first saw it, I thought to myself (perhaps like you’re thinking) ‘I bet that’s not as hard as it looks’.

 So I did a bit of research and found that it’s not as bad as you might expect. For one thing you don’t even have to go the whole way, because you start off the coast of Africa and finish off the coast of south America. Sure the race is 5000 km long but here’s the thing – there’s two people in each boat, so that means you only have to row half the distance.

And it’s not like you need to take all the food for your trip because you can always fish when you’re out there. In fact, you don’t even need to take a fishing line because the fish just jump into the boat!

But it turns out the thing you have to be most worried about is in fact, aliens! I’m serious, you saw that our route just clips that part of the ocean where lots of boats and planes have gone missing at sea. So one of the first things I did was to find out how risky was this race? How many boats have been lost trying to row across the Atlantic Ocean?

It turns out the answer is six. Six boats, 12 crew. Oh, when I say the boats are lost … here, is the weird thing – the boats are always found again afterwards, just without any people on board. That’s creepy right! So now I don’t care if it’s methane emissions, waterspouts, or aliens people taking people up for science experiments, clearly something really bad happens out there. So I quit. Thank you very much.
I did quit. But I was sick of the way I kept on having these great ideas and quitting. That had been my habit for too long. So this time I thought I would try something different. This time I would try to be more rational.
So I thought I would do a pros and cons list. Can’t get more rational than that! I’m going to go through the actual list here. If any of you are procrastinating about something big that you know that you should be taking on, then you might want to bring your own list of excuses to mind. Because you will have a pretty similar list I’m sure. So here’s my list. Here we go. Reasons for NOT rowing across the ocean. Let me think.

 ‘I could die.’ Remember those 6 boats lost at sea?

 Now if you’ve ever read any books about people who have rowed across the Atlantic, then you know that there is chapter after chapter where they complain about how the long exposure to salt water gives them ulcers and salt water boils, and their arms get locked in these terrible cramps, it just sounds incredibly painful and ‘I’m not into pain.’

 In the same books they talk about the typical shifts they do out at sea. Normally two hours on two hours off. Can’t fool me – that means you have to get out of bed 6x a day!

 Oh yeah, there was something else. Oh that’s right.

‘I don’t know how to row’.

 This isn’t a list of excuses! This is a list of reasons! So this time I really did quit.

 So no one was more surprised than me to find myself two years after this point – at the finish line for the race, having won it AND set a new world record.

 The problem when you take on a big challenge your brain is very good at coming up with reasons for why something won’t work. To produce a long and convincing list. To be very ‘rational’.

 Turns out being rational can lead down a dead end. There are always great reasons for NOT doing something, particularly a big uncertain something.

 So yes, step 1, is writing down your list of concerns and doubts, but don’t stop there. If you’re feeling daunted and overwhelmed, then the next step is to get more excited, more engaged with your challenge, and how much better off you’ll be if you achieve it.

 Researchers (Like Antonio Damasio) have studied people who had brain injuries which meant they couldn’t experience emotions. You might think that these people would be brain surgeons, or fighter pilots or currency traders or contract killers, because they have no emotion to cloud their judgement.

 Turns out they are terrible decision-makers. Most would spend hours trying to figure out where to eat lunch. Then whether to have chicken or beef. Research shows that it is emotion that enables us to make up our minds and take action.

 I’m not saying that you should be irrational about making decisions. Far from it – nothing beats a good spreadsheet. But when it comes to taking on a big challenge if you’re excited about the potential results -you’re going to be much more resourceful in your problem solving and more balanced in your analysis.

How do you get emotionally engaged with your goal? Well in the next blog I’m going to suggest FOUR ways.


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Kevin Biggar

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