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Book give away: Ten Lessons from the Road – chapter 7

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.

7 – WHAT DO YOU REALLY WANT?

Is this year important to you?
When did you last think, “What do I really want?”

Is this year important to you? Then use it! Make a New Year’s resolution today. The peak age for running a marathon, something that many people consider vaguely as being on their ‘Things to Do in Life’ list (and if it isn’t on your list, it should be!), is generally acknowledged to be between 30 and 40 years of age.
If you are aged 20 now, and procrastinating signing up for a marathon, each year that you waste is at least 5% of your potential. If you are 30 now, each escaped year is some 10% of your best opportunities gone. Imagine voluntarily agreeing to give up 10% of your lifespan!
If you are over 40 now, do not despair. You may not be able to achieve the best marathon time that you could have run years ago, but you can still run a marathon. And the older you are the greater that achievement will be.

If you were to die right now, how would you feel about your life?
– Fight Club

The years thunder by, the dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.” So I chose to leave everything that I was familiar with, everything that I knew and loved and enjoyed. I turned down a good job offer. I chose to leave my friends, family, girlfriend and country. I decided to let go of everything that makes a life normal, secure and conventionally happy.
Like the movie poster blu-tacked to the wall in my student halls, I chose not to “choose a big television, choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments, choose a starter home, choose sitting on the couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows.” I chose something else.
I was tremendously excited by life and I didn’t think that I would find it where I was. I knew that leaving would be hard, but, like Candide, “I should like to know which is worse, to be raped a hundred times by negro pirates, to have a buttock cut off, to run the gauntlet among the Bulgarians, to be whipped and flogged in an auto-da-fé, to be dissected, to row in a galley, in short to endure all the miseries through which we have passed, or to remain here doing nothing?”

Is this year important to you?
I worry at times that each year is almost too important to me. I dislike birthdays for their celebration of another year gone. I feel a tremendous pressure to make the most of each year, to make all my days as full and worthwhile as possible.

When did you last think, “What do I really want?”
Returning home from four years on the road, it took me a long time to decide what to do next with my life, how to make the next years as rewarding as the last. So I spent a lot of time thinking about my life and what I want from it.

At the beginning of my journey, I was overwhelmed by its scale. A large part of me would have preferred not to upset the status quo. I had a good life; I was taking a risk by leaving it all behind. But, upon beginning my expedition, I knew that I was doing the right thing. It was what I really wanted to do, despite the obstacles and the fears. I was taking active steps towards achieving what I wanted with my life, and making the most of my days.

How much better to know that we have dared to live our dreams than to live our lives in a lethargy of regret.
– Gilbert E. Kaplan

My mother-in-law and I ran the London Marathon the same year. When I crossed the finish line she was just reaching the halfway point. Whose achievement was the greater? Mine for running it quickly, or hers for completing an event twice as long as mine? My mother-in-law certainly gained more from the experience and, rightly so, has a greater sense of achievement than I do. Only those who have run a marathon can call themselves marathon runners.

The second half of a man’s life is made up of nothing but the habits he has acquired during the first half.
– Fyodor Dostoevsky

Perhaps you have got more sense than to want to run a marathon. No problem. But we all have our own ‘marathon’. A watershed moment in life. Something that you will use as a marker. My life before ‘x’ and my life after ‘x’. Something we would love to accomplish, something difficult (that, at times, will seem to be too difficult). Remember, failing is acceptable. It is looking back with regrets that is not.

The time to act is now. Sign up now for a marathon, a half marathon, a 10k, a fun run. You’ll never put your trainers on and get fit if you don’t. Join a Spanish class. Learn how to use your camera properly. Quit your job and do something you love. Do something you care about. Do something to add value to the planet.
Every year is a significant percentage of all your time that remains on this spectacular place we call Earth and home. The older you become the greater that percentage is. The younger you are the more lasting your change can be. So, whatever your age, whatever your personal marathon: Act Now. Put down this book and take one step towards making the most of this year.

Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day, in all the thousand small uncaring ways.
– Stephen Vincent Benet

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

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