It’s incredible how much is staring us right in the face through our lives, and we just don’t see it. Strengths, weaknesses, feelings, blessings, pain – our own and others’.
We get so caught up in the to-do lists every day, so busy trying to keep things moving, that we tune out of the very sensitivities that make us human.
I, for one, realized this only when I was forced to spend time alone with my thoughts – when I was running the Marathon des Sables, a 250km run across the Sahara Desert, in April last year.
Here’s what I learned about myself when I had no choice but to turn inwards for some company. Some of these revelations have been massive for me. They’ve changed how I approach life and work.
I reaffirmed that I could do absolutely anything I set my mind to
I’ve always known I was this guy — someone driven by seemingly impossible challenges. But I had the chance to reflect on the power of that particular quality.
If I could go from being a morbidly-obese 130kg sedentary workaholic to a 72kg ‘athlete’ who knocks off ten workouts a week and attempts an ultramarathon, then there was very little that I couldn’t do.
That one idea fuels much more than just my workouts – it’s at the back of my mind whenever I face a new challenge, be it a business or financial goal, a fitness goal, absolutely anything.
I needed to spend more time with myself
We live in an urban jungle. We’re all so busy being busy. There’s always a 100-chore to-do list that we comfortably bury ourselves under – got to pick the kids up, got to pay the electricity bills, got to renew my visa, got to book those tickets or get into that rent negotiation chat – the list is never-ending.
It’s almost as though we procrastinate being alone with ourselves, and giving ourselves the time and space to think – or at least it felt like that for me.
I think it’s vital that people deliberately cut out time in their day, week, month, to stop and just think.
The long hours I spent training for the ultramarathon, and then the six days I spent running it, gave me a lot of time to do just that. It helped me compartmentalize and figure out how to deal with things one at a time.
I had a lot of emotional baggage to offload
This was probably the big internal shakedown I really needed. I’ve been through a lot of emotionally-taxing events over the last decade or so.
My dad passed away ten years ago, two close friends had lost their lives too, I’d walked out of a successful family business & another partnership to work on my own – it’s just been a whole lot of stuff.
I never actually gave myself the time to grieve those deaths. I never let my soul recover from those losses because I just threw myself back into the drill. But I was forced to confront those feelings, and I’m glad for it.
When you’re out there in the desert, about to get started on an 86-kilometer phase of the run that could take anywhere between 14 and 35 hours to finish (I took 22 hours if you are wondering), you’re just trudging along, one foot in front of the other.
You don’t choose where your heart or your mind go at that point. You just let it all wash over you and deal with it.
I came back really light and clear-headed from that run. I needed some perspective on my life from outside of my actual life, and I got exactly that.
I realized again, very clearly, why I do what I do for a living
I’ve been on this discovery path before. I had found my purpose and defined it, but I had a strong reaffirmation of why I do what I do – why I sell Life Insurance and give financial advice, and why I choose to work with the specific types of clients that I work with.
I thought about how crucial it was for me to do my job well, to give out the right kind of advice to my clients – people and their families that I genuinely care about.
You see, when you’re running in the desert with everything you need for survival in a 10kg backpack on your back, it’s hard not to think about mortality. It’s hard not to think about the risk associated with what you’re doing, and you think about your life back home and your family, and all I could think of was how I needed to ensure they were secure should the worst happen to me.
And it’s the same with my clients. I’m expected to show up with a cheque when they and their families need it most. It’s a job loaded with responsibility and sensitivity. And I know I’ve always been that advisor who people can count on to show up, and that’s always been my purpose. I’ve articulated that before but here’s my big ‘Why’ –
My big ‘why’ is karma. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, right?
My main driving force is that I want to ensure my family has all the resources, the people and the care and support they need to feel secure when I’m not around. I strive to give my clients that very same peace of mind about their loved ones.
Most things we worry about in life aren’t worth worrying about
The hours I’ve spent worrying about whether a deal was going to come through, whether I’d make it for my big meeting in time because of the traffic I was stuck in, or something else that seemed consequential at that moment… that time spent worrying is almost always an absolute waste.
That big to-do list that we bury ourselves under? It tunnels our vision. We fail to grasp the bigger picture and get caught up and tied down by trivial everyday problems.
READ: Stuff happens, things go wrong and life goes on. We adapt, and honestly, we can probably endure far more than we think we can.
I came back with the resolve to worry less and live more, and so far, it’s made a phenomenally positive impact on every aspect of life.
This year, I’m going to be running the Marathon des Sables for a second time, and I’m running for a cause. I’m running to raise money for The Exodus Road, a foundation that fights modern-day slavery across the world.
You can learn more about the foundation and their fight against slavery here.
And if you’re in the position to, and would like to, I’d appreciate it if you could make even a small contribution towards the cause here. All the money raised goes towards making more slave rescue operations possible.