Stepping over the precipice, strapped to a Hang Glider, I am looking upwards not downwards. I am thinking of what I need to do to pass my Pilot 1 qualification with the British Hangliding Association BHGA) in Brecon Beacons, Wales. OK, take off and ascend to 400 feet, stall and recover, turn left, turn right, descend and then land on my feet. Why am I doing this? It is not as if this was going to be my sport – the kit was too expensive and to be honest I had not properly prepared for this course. I had no idea about the different cloud formations, apparently that bit was going to be a key part of the paper test for the qualification, who knew? The things you do when you see a poster on a notice board and you think I will give that a go; it will be a good laugh.
Recently, one Saturday morning we were walking towards the town centre in Bury St Edmunds and my wife, Joyce, turns to me and says “one day Steve you should write a book titled: Steve’s little book of foolishness” this was prompted by my latest foolish escapade. I said “why wait?” I have huge lists of foolish things I have done and the Hang Gliding experience is just one example (by the way I did qualify and never flew a hanglider again!) A few more acts of foolishness spring to mind:
- Offering to do the 3000m steeplechase to help my athletic team to gain some points at a top league event a few minutes before the race and my only experience of doing the event was watching it on television the night before.
- Sitting at the top table of our wedding reception with people looking to me with the expectation that I would be standing up and giving a speech. Due to some very serious and intense military training the weeks and days before our wedding, I must admit I had not given it a moment’s thought, I just wanted to be married to Joyce. So I was totally stunned, “I am supposed to give a speech?” As Joyce reminded me when I mentioned I was going to write this post – “Steve, you had one job” (Joyce organised everything else) (Sorry Joyce).
- Leaving an Army Depot on my own to go to my first ‘adult’ posting in Germany as a 17 year old. I knew I had to find my way to Gutersloh, a military airport in West Germany, but to find where I was going to live in Paderborn and work in Sennelager; I had no idea how I was going to do that, I wasn’t sure they were even expecting me (they weren’t!). My only plan was to worry about it all when I landed.
- Canoeing into open sea off Norway’s coast in a two man canoe as part of an army expedition, with all our clothes, food and camping gear inside the canoe. Foolish because this was on the back of no canoe training and only meeting the person I was going to share the canoe with earlier that morning.
- Committing a couple of days before the event to doing the London Marathon in someone else’s name (he couldn’t make it due to an emergency posting) I had not done any training for it! Foolish because I had a discounted theatre ticket with the marathon package, so I decided to go and see a show which finished a matter of hours before I needed to get up again and leave for the marathon. (I did the marathon in 3.30 hrs, phoning my mum to tell her I could hardly move as I tried to make my way back to my hotel with just a foil blanket to keep me warm).
There are lots more examples of “foolishness” but the examples I gave Joyce were apparently not appropriate, and frankly ridiculous. You will have to ask me in person the next time you see me to discover those!
So what is the purpose of doing stuff that, to some people, would be considered to be foolish or with the benefit of hindsight (sometimes decades later) you think “why did I do that?”
Five reasons why I continue to be foolish:
- It forces me to leave my Comfort Zone. It makes life so much more exciting
- Seeking experiences. The things I have purchased over the years don’t last but the experiences stay with me as have my acts of foolishness, some from over 40 years ago.
- Having the courage to fail. Accepting you are going to have failures in life. Struggling with the fear of failure? This previous post may help you https://leadershipintheraw.org/2014/08/11/fail-and-fail-big/
- Overcoming Fear recognising that something will scare me but I do it anyway. The more I do this the more I become confident in myself and what I can achieve in the future.
- Being Audacious being bold (and sometimes I must admit recklessly bold) and daring too. When you are audacious opportunities open up for you.
Live a life with no regrets
From ‘100 things successful people do by Nigel Cumberland’ An Australian nurse spent years caring for dying patients and during her conversations with them she explored their biggest regrets. These are the five she heard most often:
- ‘I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, rather than living the life others expected of me’
- ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’
- ‘I wish I hadn’t suppressed my own feelings to keep the peace, and instead had the courage to be more honest about what I was feeling’
- ‘I wish I had invested more time in friendships and not lost touch with so many friends over the years’
- I wish I had let myself be happier, smiled more and taken life less seriously’
Growing Old disgracefully (and foolishly) At the age of 61 I decided my running goals for this year are to: run 1000 miles in 2018, get under the army’s basic fitness test (BFT) time for 28 year old and come within the first 50 runners for the Colchester Parkrun (5KM).
“At the age of 20, we worry about what others think of us.
At the age of 40, we don’t care what they think of us
At the age of 60, we discover they haven’t been thinking of us at all”
As I type this story I am, again, recovering from a fall – my second this year while out running. The first time I tripped over laces in my shoes which were far too long, the second time last week running in the early hours of the morning and in the dark, I tripped and fell heavily over a kerb. I got up and ran a further 3 miles (foolishly), only later in the day my knee became swollen, my shoulder became very sore with limited mobility and I think my body went into shock as I nearly passed out (fortunately I had some terrific colleagues to help me as I tried to recover). So my little book of foolishness continues and I hope to go for a run tomorrow (I think the swelling has gone down now).
Would you like to share your experiences of foolishness? We could include it in a new series in my monthly Leadership Pack. Our stories could inspire others (and at the very least amuse others).