Adventures are not adventures if there isn’t a degree of danger and uncertainty about them. – Ewan McGregor
While in Blackwood this weekend, we drove into Trentham for a visit.
There was a group of motorcyclists in town, and I struck up a conversation with one (who was riding a very nice touring BMW). He was preparing to take part in the “2010 Long Ride”, an event to raise funds for prostate cancer research in Australia, in which he and others will be riding from Melbourne to Darwin via New South Wales and Queensland – a distance of over 4,000 km.
I talked about my 1980 trip across the Nullarbor from Melbourne to Karratha, WA. On this trip, I travelled 5,000 km in six days on a GSX 750 Suzuki (and home again at a slightly slower rate).
This put me in mind of “Long Way Round” – Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s epic 2004 motorcycle ride across Europe, Russia and North America. I have recently watched this on DVD, and have now just started reading the book. Inspiring stuff!
Climbing Everest is pretty serious stuff. Here are some of the thoughts that I tweeted from Nick’s presentation:
- The number of deaths on Everest is 8% of the number of summiteers.
- A dream becomes a goal when you start actively planning it.
- Success requires taking risks.
- Failure teaches that taking risks is crucial.
- Failure provides an experience you can’t buy.
Sort of makes my adventuring pale into insignificance. My 2002 ascent of Mt Kosciuszko (2,228 m) isn’t much in comparison. And then most of my ascent was by cable car. Maybe a riskier achievement was hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up in the one day in 1983. That was a round trip of over 25 km, with a fall and rise (in that order) of around 1,400 m. This was on the way home from six months backpacking around Europe with a 20 kg pack; that was probably the fittest that I’ve ever been in my life. The signs there now apparently warn:
“Danger! Do not attempt to hike from the canyon rim to the river and back in one day. Each year hikers suffer serious illness or death from exhaustion.”
Nick Farr’s key principle in his (more serious) mountaineering is “entitlement”. If you have done the preparation, then you are entitled to achieve your goal. In the “Long Way Round” book, Charley Boorman quotes the former SAS officer that took them through survival training: “If you can survive the prep, the mission will be fine”.
I have been operating AcKnowledge Consulting for nearly 2 years now, and greatly enjoying the experience of being a freelancer. I also had the luxury of starting out with a fairly comfortable package from my former employer. I have worked with some great clients, and had some interesting projects. Things were a little tight in early 2009, but I have generally done a lot better so far in this financial year than in my first full year of business.
However, this can be a feast or famine game. I am working on some new potential opportunities to pick up after my current major project finishes, but there is nothing locked in yet. There is not as much of the original package left as a backstop now, either.
As much as I have enjoyed the business so far, I am now also realising that I have not had any major projects that have been focussed on my main consultancy offering – knowledge transfer to a non-technical audience.
So it occurs to me know that I am feeling a bit like I did when I arrived at Northam on the Suzuki in 1980.
Getting past the two-thirds barrier
Northam is a town 100 km from Perth in Western Australia. When I reached there at the end of the fourth day’s travel out of Melbourne, I was on schedule to reach Karratha in the planned six days. I had covered two-thirds of the distance. This was the point where I turned north for the trip up the west coast via Geraldton and Carnarvon.
However, it had been a difficult day. The first two days through Victoria and South Australia were fine. The third day started well, but as I was riding over the Nullarbor Plain, I was heading into increasingly strong head-winds. Once I crossed the border into Western Australia, the road edges were wider than the South Australian side, and much clearer of vegetation. The wind was picking up loose sand and throwing it at me.
I tucked in under the windscreen on the sports fairing, and tried travelling a little faster to get through this stage a bit quicker. This actually seemed to make it even more demanding, however. I camped that night in the tent for the third night. The gravel tent site at Balladonia roadhouse was so hard that the alloy tent pegs would not penetrate it at all. I tied one rope to the centre-stand of the bike, and used a screwdriver for another peg. The bathroom was unpleasantly dirty and shabby, with a door hanging off its hinges. The water was hard, and my soap would not lather. (I learned about soap for hard water later in the trip.)
On day four, I thought I was going crazy. The road and weather conditions were fine, but I was talking to myself, and shifting position on the seat every five minutes; moving my feet to the pillion foot-pegs and back again.
Guessing that I would have had enough of camping by this stage, I had planned to stay at a motel in Northam. It was a relief to arrive there, and sleep in a real bed for the night. At this point, I was just not sure how I was going to cope with the rest of the trip.
I woke refreshed in the morning, and headed off happily. Regardless of my fears, I just ate up the distance all that day, and covered the 950 km to Carnarvon as if it was a jaunt down the road to the shop. It was probably the most enjoyable day’s ride I have ever had. The last 650 km to Karratha on day 6 was even easier.
So what had happened at the end of day four? It was like I had broken through some sort of barrier of pain and frustration, and come out the other side. I had prepared for the trip, and faced the barriers and the risk of failure – so I was entitled to achieve the goal I had set.
I can take the same approach to my business. I have been working towards this point for some time, preparing my path, building the network, and addressing the risks. Now is the time to face the uncertainty, move forward and achieve the goal.
Time to get back on the bike.