I hadn’t really wanted to be in the Atlantic Rowing Race. But I fell in love with a particular boat (bad idea!) and it happened to belong to the organiser of the Atlantic race, and it was a condition of purchase that I compete in the race.

So I did. I tried to wriggle out of that clause of the contract, but failed, and so ended up as a reluctant competitor.

I don’t know if you’re like this, but I can be competitive if I’m put in a competitive situation. I don’t particularly like to compete, but if put in a race, I just can’t help myself – I will compete. The race organiser somewhat encouraged this competitive attitude when he implied that with my cool new lightweight boat, I might be in with a chance of beating some other crews.

Youch, appeal to the ego. And I fell for it. 

courage-be-yourselfSo, even though I was the only solo female in the race, so theoretically all I had to do was complete the race to win my category, I wanted to do well. And “doing well” for me meant beating at least one other crew. That might not sound like a very lofty ambition, but I was a (short) solo female up against mostly crews of two or four people – and one international oarsman – so to not come last was reasonably ambitious.

Oh, and one of my sponsors (and I only had two) had offered to double their money if I broke the women’s speed record for the crossing. That meant double-a-fairly-small-amount, but it was an amount that wasn’t completely trivial to me at that time.

Needless to say, it didn’t go well.

Little by little, I fell off the back of the pack. I did get close to overtaking a men’s pair, but then their boat sank and they were rescued, so I was in last position once again. As Day 56, the then women’s speed record, came and went, I was still only half way across the ocean.

choicesI was getting mightily peeved about my race position, until one day I woke up to the insanity of what I was doing to myself. I remembered that my goals in rowing the Atlantic were to a) raise environmental awareness, and b) find out what I was capable of.

Beating other crews, beating the women’s record – these were other people’s goals, not mine. I needed to get back to what mattered, what my goals were. 

It was such a relief. I let go of those other people’s goals, and got back to focusing on what mattered to me.

Has anything like this ever happened to you?

Have you ever started doing something (a job, a relationship, a sporting event) for one reason, and then somehow find yourself co-opted into somebody else’s agenda? Have you ever lost sight of why you wanted to do something in the first place?

If so, take a step back. Take yourself back to where it started. Remind yourself what matters. And be true to that.


If you’re interested in reading more about my Atlantic voyage, check out the book, Rowing The Atlantic: Lessons Learned on the Open Ocean


Other Stuff:

I’m speaking in New York this week, at a private corporate event. Top tip: if you fly from the UK to the US (or vice versa) with Iceland Air, you get a free layover in Iceland. So we’re off for a mini-explore – yayy!



  • Roz

    In broad terms I view you as stark raving mad, but in focused terms you are my absolute hero. Being green with envy is not the answer, “Just get out and do it!”, she said.
    Nah, at about 70 I have left things a bit late.

    • Yes Roz, this happens very frequently in the work place, eg, a line manager wants to keep his sheet clean and be seen to be in charge, so holds back others so not to be undermined – even if someone elses ideas can enhance the goals and image of the organisation, so those that try to maintain their beliefs or ambitions and be true to themselves, eventually leave, square pegs and round holes eh! But who are the real hearo’s and champions!

      • I think increasingly the workplace will need to be about collaboration, not competition. There is a lot of talk about how the younger generation, the Millennials, require more from their work than previous generations. Change is coming. And it’s time!

  • Hi Roz
    I just love reading your emails, so full of inspiration and positive life lessons. Always makes me want to push myself just that bit harder and make a difference in the world. Keep following that dream and enjoy life. Thanks Arran

    • You are so welcome, Arran! Thank you for reading. And keep following that dream and making a difference. The world needs more people like you.

  • Hi Roz, Thanks for your reminder on creating and focusing on our own vision and goals. I have fallen, and continue to fall into the comparison trap. There really is no win in comparing ourselves to others. I wrote a blog in January that you might appreciate. http://www.eqadvantage.ca/#!The-Comparison-Trap/c1h01/56902d8f0cf21dc8b192f4b6

    I do find that writing down my goals and vision really help me to recognize when I have reached my own targets.

    Thanks and love, Russell

    • Really enjoyed that blog post, Russell – thanks! Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata is one of the most intense nuggets of wisdom that I know of, and I particularly love this line:

      If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
      for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

      So for sure, it’s a huge relief to get off that envy treadmill, and to be happy with what we have. It must be painful at the moment NOT to give in to your daughter’s desire to have a great big Instagram-able Christmas, but I trust that eventually she will be grateful to you for instilling such a great value system.

      Thanks and love to you too, cousin!

  • While I was fortunate enough to have parents that did not try to sculpt me into a particular person, many others have had dominating parents. Roz’ call to be true to your own definition of success is especially valuable for those whom the sound of a different drum, put in their head by well-intentioned parents or less well-intentioned others, drives them off their own beat. I do suggest that we all check our own definition of success against others now and again, however. Sometimes I find my own definition of success to be off, and find myself welcoming a call from others to either gear up, cool down, or change the direction I am going in pursuit of success. Keep your own definition…but make sure you update it if needed. And to get a more full story of Roz’ first crossing of an ocean, and all the emotional and physical “success” she had to pursue and continually reassess, do read her Rowing the Atlantic. If you do audio books, listen to her reading it herself. She may not be a professional actress but she reads quite naturally and enjoyably.

  • Hi,
    When I stopped comparing myself with other people,I have found more oppurtinies to achive my goals and to live my own life.But the most important thing which this blog had taught is not to compare my children with other children and not to impose our goals on them.
    Thank you….

    • Very wise of you, Akif. I think some parents try to make their children *be* something that they’re not – either a replica of their parents, or in some way to make up for their parents’ unfulfilled dreams. It takes real strength and wisdom to allow them to be who they are – unique.

      How old are your children?

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