6 things you could learn from mad feats

by Rob on January 6, 2010

It is a great pleasure to re-introduce Tim Moss, our 14th Esc Hero, the man behind our launch party slogan “Ain’t no party like an Esc club party” and all-round legend. Thanks Tim for an inspirational and proactive post.

6 things you could learn from mad feats

“Man cycles round world in record time”.

“Pensioner climbs Mount Everest”.

“Girl rows across Pacific”.

People are always doing these incredible feats and making the headlines but what’s that got to do with us?

Most of us won’t ever go to the North Pole or cross the Sahara, and most people probably don’t want to. So what can we learn from this?

I spend a lot of my time reading about, talking about, planning and doing expeditions. Here are some things that I’ve taken from them:

1. You can make a living doing what you love

Ranulph Fiennes is probably the most famous British explorer/adventurer out there but even he had to start somewhere. One of the turning points for me entering the adventure world was reading his autobiography and going through his realisation that he could turn his hobbies (mad adventures) into a living.

If you went to a bank manager and asked for a loan so you could make a profitable empire from travelling to both Poles, climbing Everest and running 7 marathons, on 7 continents in 7 days, you can imagine the response you’d get. But if Fiennes succeeded in living off this most implausible of ideas, what can you get away with?

2. Money might not be as important as you think

Money is unquestionably one of the first things that people think about when taking a big step in their life. That’s natural and often necessary. But you might not need as much as you think.

Al Humphreys eked out £7,000 of student loans to last him four years cycling around the world. That’s an average annual expenditure of £1,750 covering everything – food, accommodation, travel – and he was having one hell of an adventure at the same time.

You might not want to live off banana sandwiches and jam (as Al did) but I reckon we could all take away something about working out what’s actually important to you. For Al, I think it was keeping his adventure going and if that meant roughing it then that’s what he’d do.

If you’ve got an idea, a dream, a vision or just something you quite fancy having a go at but haven’t got the money, then prioritise. Do you really need to get the train or could you walk or cycle? Do the buy-one-get-one-free cocktails on a Thursday seem so bargainous when they mean you can’t pursue your big idea?

I didn’t really have many adventurous plans for 2010 because I thought I didn’t have enough money but I swiftly chastised myself for the narrow mindedness. I’m now training to run a fast mile (that means turning left out of my house and running in a straight line until the road ends i.e. free); I’m going to run the length of every Tube line in London over the year (also free); and I’m going to use the ¬£100 cheque I got for Christmas to set off with a rucksack and see how much adventuring I can get from five twenty-pound-notes.

Money needn’t always be a hurdle.

3. You are capable of so much more than you think

In 2006, comedian David Walliams swam 22 miles across the English Channel. In 2009, actor and stand-up Eddie Izzard ran 1,100 miles in 51 days.

These are both great accomplishment in their own rights but what makes them more so is the people that did them. In many regards these two might not be considered “ordinary” people but on the merits of their physical prowess I suspect that is exactly the category they would fall into.

Fitness and exercise were by no means their forte but look what they’ve done – if they can reach such great heights in areas of weakness, just think what you could do with something you’re good at!

4. Your horizons can expand, you can aim higher

Many people think that a marathon is the pinnacle of human endurance. They used to think that women couldn’t run them. Now ultra-marathons are all the rage and I read about a guy who ran the 900 miles from Lands End to John O’Groats in 9 days. You didn’t misread that last sentence nor did I mistype it.

You’ve heard of an Iron Man triathlon, right? That’s a 2.4 mile swim, 112 cycle and a marathon to finish. Sounds pretty tough but did you know that there is a Double Iron Man? And a triple and a quadruple. What about the Deca Iron Man, ten times the distance. Heard of that one? And how about the Double-Deca Iron Man? Twenty consecutive Iron Man triathlons back to back.

Such things would have been unheard of 20 years ago but humans haven’t evolved that quickly. New gear, training techniques and nutritional supplements can’t explain it either. People have simply started pushing boundaries.

I’m deliberately throwing at you the most ridiculous things I’ve ever come across because they have taught me something: Whatever you’re thinking about, someone has done something tougher.

That used to annoy me, I thought “everything has been done” but now it inspires me because it means that anything I want to do is possible. I so rarely question possibility these days and just get stuck into how to make it happen.

You might not want to run around the world (been done) but do some research on the sort of things that do interest you and I dare you not to expand your horizons and start aiming higher when you see the amazing things that other people have done.

5. You need to push yourself

There are things that we accept to be “good” and “fun” – like having a beer on a Friday night, sitting in a jacuzzi, relaxing on a beach – and they’ve earned those labels through being easy, safe, relaxing and at the very epicentre of your comfort zone.

The things that make the protagonists of these adventures – Ran Fiennes, Al HumphreysBorge Ousland, Eddie Izzard, Mark TwightPhil Packer – so great, however, is that they’ve stepped away from the fun and easy, and had a go at the tough and the scary.

There’s nothing wrong with relaxing in a hot tub on the beach with a cold beer but don’t let that be the extent of your activities. There’s a time for chilling out just as there’s a time for pushing yourself and a time to scare your living daylights out.

I am quite certain that the people above and, undoubtedly, whoever it is that you look up to, did not get to where they are without doing a few things that tested them, scared them, worked them hard.

6. You can have an adventure every day

Listen to someone talk about their last expedition and you’ll hear the chime of Amazonian birdsong in their voice. Watch closely as they speak and you might catch a glimpse of an Alaskan peak in their eye. Read their prose with the book held at arms length for, at any moment, the lion they evaded in Zimbabwe could jump from the pages.

Expeditions are exciting and you’ll realise that the second you find out a bit more about one. They are exciting for many reasons and, for me, one of the greatest is that they are a brilliant way to embrace the world and embrace life.

But you don’t need to climb a mountain, cross a desert or even break a sweat to have an adventure. You can fit them around your daily routine, squeeze them into your lunchbreak or bash one out on the weekend. Try a new route to work, see how far away from your office you can get on your lunch hour, sleep in your back garden or your living room, try out a new pub rather than the same one you always go to, sign up for a weird evening class or join a club, explore your local area. It doesn’t matter what you do or how you do it as you long as you get out there and try it.

You can read more about how to have an adventure everyday here.

Tim Moss is trying to live a more adventurous life and help other people do the same. He writes regularly on his website.

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