“This is what 5am at the trailhead looks like. Excuses about not having enough time to reach the goals we have for ourselves is BS! Make time! We all have 24hrs in a day, what are you doing with yours?” This Facebook update, accompanied by an almost entirely black photo, was from Richard Bowles, adventure runner extraordinaire, notable among other feats for being the first (and currently only) person to run the entire 5,330kms of Australia’s Bicentennial National Trail. So he’s coming from a defensible position, at least in some respects.
Now, many of the folk that would have seen this post are likely to be ‘ultra runners’, like myself, but still I imagine some of them could have taken umbrage to it. It might be read as a confrontational, implied criticism of people who perhaps feel constrained by challenges Richard himself may not face. I imagine people thinking to themselves “%$&# you! Before your 5am run did you spend the night trying to resettle your toddler while your partner attended to one of the older siblings who was throwing up all night?”
I myself did not actually react this way (and perhaps I’m wrong to imagine that others might have). Tosser that I am, I instead mentally performed a quick audit and self-satisfactorily reached the conclusion that I am in fact at the trailhead at 5am (or midnight…) often enough to comfortably sit within any chalk circle Richard might draw around those making good use of their time. Big tick for me. Indeed, having to also regularly face into such challenges as the multi-child nightmare scenario above perhaps qualifies me as a Richard Bowles poster-boy.
For, a quick perusal of his website informs me that in fact the Facebook comment above is a good reflection of Richard’s entire philosophy and, indeed, his business proposition, as a motivational speaker and author. “Everybody wants more. Let me show you how to achieve it”, is a tagline on his site. So, while I don’t actually know the span of Richard’s own life challenges (I have met him, but didn’t have much chance to chat before hitting the trails for a run), I am fairly sure that the likelihood of his currently being childless, for example, probably does NOT mean it’s a life factor he has overlooked in his various consulting/coaching/speaking/writing ventures on the topic of making the most of your life. I imagine he regularly coaches people with far greater life challenges than I’ve ever had.
For those wondering where I’m going with this piece – am I for Richard, or against?! – I should just shut that down by assuring the reader that I am neither. It would be hard for me to criticize someone who by virtue of achievement automatically rates as something of a hero of mine. I have yet to read any of his material and hence am in no position to comment on that. I trust I’ll have the opportunity to pick his brains at some point in the near future, given his active community involvement in Melbourne’s trail running scene. What inspired me to respond to the quote above was purely my own curiosity to explore whether or not I myself believe in such mantra, when taking life holistically into account, insofar as my experience allows.
Because, at risk of sounding arrogant (it wouldn’t be the first time), many people I have met might assume Richard and I share wholeheartedly the view that there is almost limitless opportunity to use the 168 hours in a week. I get it a lot: what do you MEAN you’re also writing your third novel…taking point on the shopping and cooking…a program director at a large corporation…a musician…bringing up three small children…running in an ultramarathon nearly every month…etc. However, before the reader disgustedly stuffs their tee-shirt in the outlet of my self-blown trumpet, rest assured that my own conscience forces me to protest (as I do when questioned along the above lines). The ‘soundbites’ about what I do with my time don’t reflect whether I have a healthy, holistic coverage of all the aspects of my life I should be managing. Indeed, without beating myself up, pretty much everything I do could be viewed as sub-optimal, insufficient, half-baked, unsustainable, selfishly geared and, in general, quite mediocre.
I do my best, though. When I examine my priorities and how I’m juggling them, I frequently question whether I should attempt to do less, knowing that stopping given activities would certainly have an immediate benefit to some other aspects of my life. But the answer to these questions is invariably: No. I keep asking myself if it is selfish, and to a degree the answer IS yes, but on balance I am still solidly subscribed to the belief that no one can get the best of you if you’re not making the best of yourself. In short, all this leads me to suspect that, actually, perhaps I am in the Richard Bowles camp after all.
The reason this surprises me is that my mediocrity, or at least the rationale to push on despite it, is in fact enabled by the philosophy I have been known to espouse on occasion, which can be neatly summated by the following mantra: “That’ll do.” (Indeed, that was exactly the mantra my brother and I used to joke was the family, or at least the brothers’ philosophy of how to live.) So, reading Richard Bowles’ Facebook post, wondering how others might read it, and THEN realising that perhaps it rings truer for me than I had ever thought possible, challenged everything Historical Me has held dear: that there is little point in trying to squeeze every last drop out of life, as one might in doing so miss the point somewhere along the line; fail to smell the roses; miss the trees for the wood, so to speak. I must have changed.
To conclude: despite being the guy who tries to do everything and half-bakes it all, my own ineffectiveness does not belie my belief that the boundaries should be pushed and that it’s possible to do more, and do it well…it’s just the latter part of that where personally I’m a bit deficient (perhaps I should get some coaching…Richard?). Life IS short. There IS nothing to be gained from an extra hour’s sleep (caveat: if you know when to rest). You DO only live once. You CAN always do more.
So, while it’s important to be sensitive to the various challenges other people face, many of which I can’t even imagine – being relatively very lucky in my life – I say: Yes, Richard Bowles. You tell ‘em! – “Make time! We all have 24hrs in a day!”