I cannot help to see the parallels with 6 years ago when I stepped off a building site, after what had been a nightmare period of life. The difference this time is there is no waking up in police cells with vague recollection of why, I am not debted to the eyeballs and I have never been clearer on where I am going. So why am I so scared, well because I’ve always been scared, maybe he’s even my mate now!
Last week when I walked off the site at Stainton village, it could be perceived as a reckless decision without firm employment to go too. Maybe even decisions made in the haste of recovering from my latest big race and the mandatory low mood that follows. I can self-talk myself into whatever I want or probably more importantly what I need to belief, so am I right or simply a little deluded?
My early years living in a state of anxiety have stayed with me and often have that familiar feeling before doing new things or meeting new people for that matter, as we all do! The intensity however so strong that at times i have ran away or fallen into not so positive coping strategies such as the drink or like some of the kids i have worked with using bad behavior to get out of the situation. But I worked out eventually that you must jump the cliff, you must go through the door and face that fear. It is the only way to take away those feelings. Our demons always grow in stature if we turn away from them, but look them in the eye and forcibly stride towards them and watch them crumble to dust.
For whatever reason in life I seem to treat it like a big challenge, never liking things to comfortable, possibly even scarier to me. I know that my childhood which gave me tremendous strength also at times gave me a feeling of never being good enough. Looking around at others, the things they possessed and the normality of their family (well to the outside viewer). But I was blessed with a man in my life who gave me a straight line, take away the emotion and do. Proper black country working stock of a man, my beloved Grandad. A man who not only thought everything was possible but showed it, even into his 80’s. We need to get 12 fence posts on a bike and move them 6 miles, well we do. I never realised when I was younger the mind-set I was being given. The one that even though with often a feeling of not being good enough, the response could only ever to DO, to try, day after day, challenge after challenge. To put your head down, walking purposefully into the wind and rain.
My first recollection of this in my psyche running for the next bus stop before the bus came, i’d rather be moving than waiting idly for that bus. Still doing it into my college days in Hartlepool whilst studying joinery. In the end simply thinking, well I might as well just run all the way. Whatever the goal, rarely shared, once set it would and does become all-consuming till it’s achieved, no matter what the timescales involved. Realising that often you take a quick look at the goal in the distance before putting your head down and concentrating on the ground at your feet.
6 years ago I stripped everything back, moving away to be on my own, with just Meg for company. The aim to work out what mattered. My simple fun day, the pre-cursor to BCT Aspire the first thing to be missed. The ludicrous decision made at the height of the recession to setup a social enterprise, not a charity. The difference you may ask, well the aim was always and still is to be self-sufficient and pay our own keep, just as my Grandad did and as I have done being self-employed for the last 16 years. What does this give you, well it gives you empowerment to be as you need to be, to work from the gut and the heart and not the ticklist of outcomes that another may need to see, regardless of it’s true value. BCT had no plan, maybe it still doesn’t, other than to raise the aspirations of people, to show what’s possible when you believe. As write BCT is in it’s strongest position ever and part of the reason, my body is telling me it’s time for a rest. I dreamed of reaching a plateau, the goal around the next bay. But year after year the wind and rain kept falling, with that plateau still not in sight. What do you do? Well you pause for breath, you take a final look at the horizon and with a deep breath you start walking once again. You find solace in the little win’s whatever they might be, buying you a little more confidence to keep plugging away. Maybe I’ll reach that next bus stop sometime soon.
Well I guess I’ve reached that plateaux personally and professionally with BCT. My period of time back on the building site serving it’s purpose of not only saving myself financially but my organisation. My learning done through doing, through failing a million times and on every occasion after the occasional tantrum, getting back up the deck to take in the learning. There are no boundaries in learning to me, my sport and endurance work, helping me personally and in business, vice versa!
I always know my next big goal, I can’t always share it openly. The sense of not being good enough, even though most of the time firmly controlled by me, can still mock me. So I pin up the goals internally and release them to the world bit by bit. Ever the dreamer, looking upward, even in the throes of depression, I guess when I sit in that gutter I am definitely looking at the stars. I have walked away from joinery, my plan fixed and after this period of simply pausing for breath. I’ll take that look up the road before it’s head down once more.
Finally having achieved one dream of getting my book in to print, I have the simply idea of travelling about like the wild west salesman on his cart and horse meeting people and possibly selling a few books. These human interactions something that i enjoy as much as anything in life. Ill rely on the things that allowed me to walk a whole continent with only a few pounds in my pocket. The simplest things I know, a smile, a warm hello and the time of day for those who cross my path. Just as the those who guided me on those walks did for me. The simplest gestures being amplified by the situation.
My plan to go to Durham University, isn’t for a better job I already have a vocation which is my work with BCT. Many years of forming ad-hoc ideas about how we motivate, build confidence & aspiration in young people, can now hopefully coupled with the much needed academic evidence. Learning isn’t a career it’s part of one of my biggest joys in life, that is where wealth lies, alongside the many memories we create and the moments we experience.
Oh I nearly forgot the goal on the physical level the 1000 mile Iditatrail in Alaska, that’s the five-year plan laid down. Which will once again start with learning the ropes and sucking up the learning, breaking it down in to those smaller sub-dreams.
Peace and Love Paul
You can pre-order here – Jumping the Cliff to Simply Be