As I was rowing across the Atlantic I had plenty of time to think about life, its purpose and meaning, and to figure out what could be learned from my ocean experience that would be useful to me in the future. I jotted down these insights in the back of my logbook. On my return home, the Sunday Times (the top-circulating Sunday broadsheet in the UK) asked me to produce a list of life-learned philosophies to share with their readers. The article appeared on 23 April 2006.
People cut out the article and put it on their refrigerator or in their wallet or on their pinboard. They told me how my words had helped them through tough times or gave them the courage to try something new. They wrote to tell me how I had inspired them. Here is what I wrote.
I Am What I Am
[Sunday Times, 23 April 2006]
- Don’t waste mental energy asking yourself if you CAN do something. Just do it. You’ll surprise yourself. I did.
- Be clear about your objectives. Ignore others, stay true to yourself and measure success only against your own criteria. I was last to finish the race – big deal. I went out there to learn about myself, and I did.
- The only constant in life is change. So don’t get depressed by the bad times, and don’t get over-excited by good ones. Accept that things are exactly as they are, and even bad times have something to teach us.
- Life can be magical, but magic only gets you so far. Then you need discipline, determination and dedication to see it through.
- Hope can hurt. The danger is that you hope for too much and set yourself up for disappointment. Be optimistic but realistic. Nothing is ever as good or as bad as you expect it to be.
- Be mindful of the link between present action and desired future outcome. Ask yourself: if I repeat today’s actions 365 times, will I be where I want to be in a year?
- Decision-making: act in faith, not fear, and don’t worry about making a ‘wrong’ decision – the way you implement it is more important than the decision itself.
- Be your own best friend. The more you rely on other people, the less control you have over your destiny.
- Be proud of your own obituary: a few years ago I wrote two versions of my obituary, the one I wanted and the one I was heading for. They were very different. I realized I needed to make some big changes if I was going to look back and be proud of my life. I am making those changes, and now I have a life worth living.
Want to learn more? All this, and much more, in Roz’s book, Rowing the Atlantic: Lessons Learned on the Open Ocean.