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Book give away: Ten Lessons from the Road – chapter 5

My third book, Ten Lessons from the Road, came out earlier this year. I’m really pleased with it, and I would love people to read it. But I’m realistic about how few people will actually read the book. So I decided to give it away -for freehere on my blog. Hopefully it will reach more people that way.
Ten Lessons from the Road has ten chapters, each one short, sweet and ideal for a blog post. I’m reproducing them here, one each month, and I hope you enjoy them.

The only downside of this is that I can’t reproduce on the blog the beautiful photos and cool layout of the book which make the book what it is. But, hey, it’s free here! You can see how the actual book looks in the 30-second preview video above.

If you like this, would you mind “re-tweeting” it on Twitter? (Stupid word, I know, but pretty helpful for me. Thanks!) Just click the logo:

5- A bad day is a good day

What can you draw strength from when things become difficult?
Bad times will come. How are you going to deal with the hard patches?

The pursuit of your outrageous goal will not always run smoothly. As well as the doubt and the fatigue within you, you will come up against obstacles and hindrances. You will have bad days. We need to condition our minds and spirits to feel that the bad days are inevitable, that they will pass, and that they make the end result all the sweeter.

The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong in the broken places.
– Ernest Hemingway

In Siberia I was joined by a good friend, and we rode like madmen through the brutal awfulness of winter in a crazy race against time to get out of Russia before our visas expired. Those three months have blended in my mind into a single, blurred memory of fatigue, stress, and appalling cold.

Siberia is a beautiful, pure but daunting land. We skidded and slid and fell and bruised. Some days the skies were grey and pregnant with more snow, others were bright like a new razor- shining, slicing.
It was -40įC and the elastic in our tent poles was no longer elasticised. It took about an hour to fix this and my fingers suffered even in gloves as I worked to tie and untie fiddly knots and thread elastic through the narrow tent poles. Bare fingers stuck to metal. It was horrible to be painfully cold when you knew that there were no more clothes to wear, no possibility of calling it a day and heading somewhere warm and nothing to do but endure.

What can you draw strength from when things become difficult?
When times were tough I used to think about all my friends, my family and all the people who had helped get me where I was in my life. I imagined them lining the road, cheering me on like the crowds at a marathon. I knew that they all wanted me to succeed and so I didn’t want to let them down.

Bad times will come. How are you going to deal with the hard patches?
A sense of humour was invaluable in trying to keep things in perspective. My struggles and bad days were utterly trivial in comparison to many people’s and I tried hard to keep things in perspective. This was sometimes easier said than done!

Before travelling to Siberia I pondered for a long time about where best to ‘begin’ the Asian portion of my ride. Singapore appealed, Shanghai too. Anywhere along the eastern shore of the continent would have been acceptable. But I had been riding for so long now that I felt that I could not let my standards slip now. So I tried to imagine myself as an old man, looking back on my life. What memories would I like to have? The answer was clear. I should take the most difficult, original option possible.

And so I found myself in Siberia. It was cold, miserable, daunting, stressful, awful. But now, warm and home once more, I appreciate those days almost above all others on my ride.

Leaders must be tough enough to fight, tender enough to cry, human enough to make mistakes, humble enough to admit them, strong enough to absorb the pain, and resilient enough to bounce back and keep on moving.
– Jesse Jackson

Remember how much you wanted to begin.
When things get tough and you question the worth of carrying on, cast your mind back to how you felt when you began. This will be motivational. Remember the enthusiasm you felt, and how desperate you were to succeed. Recall why you started, and look forward to how worthwhile it will be if you can grit through this hard patch.

If it were easy, everybody would be doing it.
If your goal is suitably outrageous and challenging there will be few others who share your passion and determination, so you will walk mostly alone. At times, then, this will be tough. But that surely is a reason to continue, not to quit.

It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun.
Develop a sense of the absurd. Learn to laugh at the ridiculousness of your situation and at yourself. Don’t take things too seriously. Remember that there are sensations other than pleasure that are good to experience: determination, grace under pressure, and a zen-like calm when all about you are losing their heads!

T. E. Lawrence (of Arabia) had written 250,000 words of his autobiography when he lost the manuscript whilst changing trains at Reading Station. Despite national newspaper appeals to find the “hero’s manuscript”, it was never found. Working from memory alone he sat down and wrote 400,000 words in the next three months. Today his Seven Pillars of Wisdom remains an epic of 20th century literature.

Those days in Siberia were the hardest physical days of my life so far. For three months we were deprived of sleep, riding hard for crazy hours and freezing cold as well. I hated it. I was exhausted. I wanted to go home.

But I tried to end each day positively. As I lay shivering in my sleeping bag I would try to learn from my mistakes. I had not given up, I had made it through the day: that gave me strength to face tomorrow. Every night I asked myself what the best part of the day had been. Maybe it had only been a hot cup of tea. But there is always something good. And I would ask myself what I was looking forward to tomorrow. It may only be another cup of tea, or simply the end of the next day’s riding, but there was always something positive ahead.

To shiver in a frost-rimed tent is to truly appreciate the next warm duvet. A parched desert teaches deep gratitude for running water. Clarion calls to be alive and to treasure life. On the road you learn to appreciate a simplification of life.

When we made it out of Russia – with a single day to spare on our visas – I felt intensely satisfied. To have stuck through the bad times taught me so much about both my strengths and my weaknesses. I felt proud to have made it and determined to capitalise on the lessons learnt in the worst of days.

“Ye who have suffered great trials gather courage, perhaps one day it will be pleasant to remember them” – anon

If you enjoyed this chapter you can read the others here.

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  1. It is great to read these words, I might get cought up in small details like that you say to not give up at night, for me that is the hardest time, gives loads of energy to hear it from you!
    all the best



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