Back in November 2011 I attended a seminar in Saigon delivered by professional development trainer Brian Tracy. At the time I was unfit and overweight, but inspired by the talk I decided to set myself a number of disciplined health, fitness and career goals. My immediate focus was on losing weight and getting into shape. After a year of gradually stepping up my exercise regime I decided to take the plunge and signed up for 10km race and then a half marathon (21km).
On April 13, 2014 I completed my first IRONMAN 70.3 (Half IRONMAN). The race consisted of a 1.9km swim, a 90km bike ride and a 21km run. After a grueling seven hours, 13 minutes and 15 seconds beneath a clear blue sky in sweltering 35 degree heat I managed to cross the finish line. As I did so I collapsed in enormous pain, screaming at the top of my lungs.
Set Goals. Achieve them. Set Bigger Goals. Achieve them too. Repeat. On 27 July this year I completed my first ever marathon. This goal was achieved just eight months after running my first 10km race, something doctors once said would never happen because of a severe Achilles tendon injury.
I want to die at a hundred years old, after screaming down an Alpine descent on a bicycle at 120 km/h. A slow death is not for me. I don’t do anything slow, not even breathe. I do everything at a fast speed. Although these words could well have come from me, they were written by Lance Armstrong in 2001. Earlier this year the legendary cyclist was stripped of all seven Tour de France titles after confessing to the use of performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career.
A major reason for people not achieving their potential is that they get stuck in a comfort zone. It is commonly argued that successful leaders try to avoid doing this by constantly setting higher goals for themselves. The problem with a comfort zone is that it can lead to a person becoming non-productive and ultimately bored. This is why it is important to continually set ourselves bigger targets and be persistent about achieving them. I have just taken myself and my family out of our comfort zone in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where we had made a lovely home and wonderful friends. We are now in Jakarta, Indonesia, a city that is foreign to us all. However, I had been becoming increasingly aware that the comfort zone I had created was becoming less challenging and less fulfilling. It was time to move on.
I arrived in Las Vegas, exhausted after a long flight from Ho Chi Minh City via Seoul, to find my luggage had gone missing. It was 4pm on Friday 29 March and it had taken what seemed like an eternity to get through passport control. When it was obvious that my bag would not be making an appearance on the carousel I asked a lady at the desk where it might be. I told her that I had flown with Korean Airways and was rather stunned when she started to babble on about the threat of a nuclear attack from North Korea! I was tired, I had no luggage and now I was being forced to listen to the ill informed, and frankly irrelevant, opinions of a woman I had asked for help.
Losers make excuses, winners make it happen. On Sunday 10 March, just 13 weeks after completing my first ever half marathon, I finished my second 21km race in less than two hours. The main aim of the first race was simply for me to stay the course, to make it round even if I had to crawl over the finishing-line. The goal for the second was to break the two-hour barrier, something I did with several minutes to spare.
Many people came up to me after my recent Big Show presentations and told me that I must write down my life story of failures and successes – upon their request below is a brief summary of a first draft: It was on 1 May, 1975, a bright spring day in Sweden, that against almost all odds, I was born. It was International Workers’ Day, the day that marks the 1886 Haymarket Massacre in Chicago, and a brass band was marching past the hospital window. The day pointed to me perhaps becoming a labourer in my later life – someone who is not afraid of hard work.
A key factor of personal development and growth for any of us is overcoming our fears. For me 2012 was a year of breaking down barriers and ended with me finally overcoming my fear of speaking in public, something that used to terrify me. In fact, the thought of public speaking is something that sends a chill down the spine of even the most confident individual. In his book ‘…and Death Came Third!: The Definitive Guide to Networking and Speaking in Public’ Andy Lopata refers to a New York Times Survey on Social Anxiety that listed people’s biggest fears. Perhaps surprisingly, ahead of the fear of death in third place and walking into a room full of strangers on second place came speaking in public.
I may be doomed to die young. This fact was made clear to me recently after my 61-year-old father had a heart attack. Fortunately, he survived, but I know that heart problems are often hereditary. So I telephoned my grandfather in Sweden last week to ask him if our family has a history of heart problems. I was shocked by what he told me.