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Off the Couch | My Secret Weapon

13 September 2018

Teamwork. It’s just one word but it’s such an integral part of absolutely every challenge. Without the right team with me and behind me, no way would I have been able to finish many of the challenges I have undertaken. And I’m certainly not only referring to my swimming challenges, but they allow me to paint a cool picture!

Its thanks to some of my extreme challenges that I’ve had the privilege of being driven to my absolute core, where it’s 100% down to two things – mental grit and the support alongside. A place where I’m useless as an individual – yet I’m the one who has to physically finish the challenge. When I say ‘useless as an individual’, I’m referring to a place where I am either petrified, hypothermic, exhausted, hurting, ready to quit – actually, its usually all of the above put together – and it’s very easy to believe that I simply could not go on. How do I keep going? What helps me not to listen to my body and my mind as they scream at me that enough is enough? Simple: I credit my success in Antarctica and many others to the fact that I had a vital and extremely attentive support team, right alongside me and back on ship too. My life was literally in their hands and it gave me that tiny bit extra of much needed confidence to push a little harder, a little further and nail it.

It’s absolutely simple what they’re there for: eye contact and 100% focus. I put my life in their hands. And it’s no small ask: In Antarctica for instance, I needed my team to be sitting on a rubber duck (in the freezing cold) and keeping eye contact with me every single moment. No frowning or looking concerned, no eating a sandwich, no looking away at the view, no reading WhatsApps, no distraction at all – just me! I think of the team as my human lifeline – it gets that granular and it provides great clarity and lessons.

And then there are the other team members: my swimming friends. There would have been no Antarctica swim if they didn’t open the doors for me/us and fight for permissions, cut through red tape and win against all odds to make the challenge possible in the first place – I played no role in that and was able to just arrive. But without it, I would potentially never have left the shores of Cape Town. Everyone has their own strengths – that’s what makes a team so powerful.

We don’t go on any swim, to outdo each other. We go as a team to achieve something individually – we usually all have the same goal.

There’s a testosterone kind of competitiveness that does naturally kick in amongst us, but for me it builds the camaraderie and the comfort that I’m not alone out there. You draw strength from each other and each other’s bravado. You relate to each other’s fears, you put the fears out there on the table and talk them through and you start to get a different perspective. If you can be vulnerable and people still believe in you, then you’re coming from a position of power. I know without a doubt that we all only wished success and safety to each other through all our travels. Success, as I definite it on extreme challenges, is not achieving the goal set – thats the cherry on top. Success is the deep lessons you learn (about yourself, about others) on the journey and how you process them for growth. Some of my biggest growths as a human being have come from my failures (that’s a subject for my next blog).

In closing, I’d like to highlight that nobody who’s the best at anything has ever done it alone. The top tennis players have the best coaches, elite athletes surround themselves with people who believe in them – they have physios, psychologists, nutritionists…. No one who is at the top of their game got there without the vital support team. The exact same applies in business – the Elon Musks, the Richard Bransons, the Sheryl Sandbergs of the world – they’re not working alone.

I’ll end with the old African proverb that I love so much:

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

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  • Joined the Little Optimist Global Challenge on a gloriously beautiful Cape Town evening. ‘Sailed’ an ‘Optimist’ in a ‘Speedo’ in a ‘Pool’ with a ‘Cocktail’  Another world first? 🤷🏼‍♂️. Amazing initiative by @gregbertish and team and wonderful hospitality by Radisson Blu. Thank you Maryke Musson for the ride @littleoptimist @cityofcapetown @southafrica @maryke.musson @radissonblucapetown @liezelonline @deonbinglive @sos_childrens_villages @tanyanefdt @newsladyamy @gillstrawberrylive @vos_jamesJoined the Little Optimist Global Challenge on a gloriously beautiful Cape Town evening. ‘Sailed’ an ‘Optimist’ in a ‘Speedo’ in a ‘Pool’ with a ‘Cocktail’ Another world first? 🤷🏼‍♂️. Amazing initiative by @gregbertish and team and wonderful hospitality by Radisson Blu. Thank you Maryke Musson for the ride @littleoptimist @cityofcapetown @southafrica @maryke.musson @radissonblucapetown @liezelonline @deonbinglive @sos_childrens_villages @tanyanefdt @newsladyamy @gillstrawberrylive @vos_james
  • “When we first saw the little red boat anchored off the coast of Puerto Williams, the Southern-most town in the world, I distinctly remember us all bursting into spontaneous laughter. Not because there was anything remotely funny about it.”Read about the challenge that earned me in of these! Link in bio  #guinnessworldrecords #guinnessworldrecord #pushpastimpossible“When we first saw the little red boat anchored off the coast of Puerto Williams, the Southern-most town in the world, I distinctly remember us all bursting into spontaneous laughter. Not because there was anything remotely funny about it.”Read about the challenge that earned me in of these! Link in bio #guinnessworldrecords #guinnessworldrecord #pushpastimpossible
  • Sometimes you just gotta do the laps. No shortcuts. No way to cheat. No one to do it for you. 280 exhaustive times up and down, staring at that line. Only the mental game works. How you visualise the task . How you break it up in your head. Smaller, bite size goals within. Then suddenly it’s easy. And you can do it again tomorrow.Sometimes you just gotta do the laps. No shortcuts. No way to cheat. No one to do it for you. 280 exhaustive times up and down, staring at that line. Only the mental game works. How you visualise the task . How you break it up in your head. Smaller, bite size goals within. Then suddenly it’s easy. And you can do it again tomorrow.
  • The pure joy and excitement on this little chap’s face when we gave him and his friends a short ride down the canal was palatable. A little goes a long way when you have even less.The pure joy and excitement on this little chap’s face when we gave him and his friends a short ride down the canal was palatable. A little goes a long way when you have even less.
  • @khayelitshacanoeclub leading the crew today on the #PeninsulaPaddle. Beautiful morning on the water, sadly plenty of plastic pollution along the way. This event will continue to raise awareness of the plight of our waterways and to challenge the actions of Cape citizens. #strawssuck #singleuseplastic ️@khayelitshacanoeclub leading the crew today on the #PeninsulaPaddle. Beautiful morning on the water, sadly plenty of plastic pollution along the way. This event will continue to raise awareness of the plight of our waterways and to challenge the actions of Cape citizens. #strawssuck #singleuseplastic ️
  • A valuable reminder to consistently evaluate your choices when it comes to single-use plastic waste. #StrawsSuck #SingleUsePlasticUCT’s Future Water Institute will lead the 11th annual Peninsula Paddle on World Rivers Day, 27 September 2020, in partnership with Cape Town Environmental Education Trust (CTEET), Friends of the Liesbeek, Khayelitsha Canoe Club, Zandvlei Trust and the City of Cape Town (represented by the Zandvlei Nature Reserve).The event will continue to raise awareness of the plight of our waterways and to challenge the actions of Cape citizens.A valuable reminder to consistently evaluate your choices when it comes to single-use plastic waste. #StrawsSuck #SingleUsePlasticUCT’s Future Water Institute will lead the 11th annual Peninsula Paddle on World Rivers Day, 27 September 2020, in partnership with Cape Town Environmental Education Trust (CTEET), Friends of the Liesbeek, Khayelitsha Canoe Club, Zandvlei Trust and the City of Cape Town (represented by the Zandvlei Nature Reserve).The event will continue to raise awareness of the plight of our waterways and to challenge the actions of Cape citizens.
  • @seachangeproject #MyOctopusTeacher #Netflix #Conservation #oceanconservation #singleuseplastic #WWF #SASSI #sustainability #sustainablefishing #SeaChangeProject" > @seachangeproject #MyOctopusTeacher #Netflix #Conservation #oceanconservation #singleuseplastic #WWF #SASSI #sustainability #sustainablefishing #SeaChangeProject" />Can you watch The Octopus Teacher and still not want to do all you can to help protect our ocean and it's incredible, mysterious, peaceful tenants?This Documentary really touched me…I can't compare to Craig Foster, but I’ve been so blessed to swim with so many beautiful Ocean creatures – from mammoth whales and smaller ones too, countless playful dolphins, plenty cheeky seals, weird anti-social sunfish, penguins and yes, sharks too.I have even had yellowtail fish follow me for kilometres when I was swimming between continents, Europe to Africa’s Gibraltar Straits. They would inquisitively look directly into my goggles with their big round, penetrating eyes. When you share each other’s space in this way, something creeps into your core, into your soul and you’ll intuitively know you’ve been tasked by the creatures of the sea to help them. Follow -> @seachangeproject #MyOctopusTeacher #Netflix #Conservation #oceanconservation #singleuseplastic #WWF #SASSI #sustainability #sustainablefishing #SeaChangeProject
  • Laying down audio books today at @blackhole_studios with @chris_tait_saLaying down audio books today at @blackhole_studios with @chris_tait_sa
  • Another epic swim camp run by @bigbayevents in Langebaan 🤟🏻Another epic swim camp run by @bigbayevents in Langebaan 🤟🏻
  • When it comes to the prism of possibilities, I’ve learnt that the real limit or “IMPOSSIBLE” is definitely not where your mind tells you it is. There is always significant margin on the other side of this ‘safe’ limit which is where the magic starts to happen. I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to help audiences to Push Past Impossible – not anyone else’s impossible, but rather their own.The space or MARGIN between those two lines is where you start to get a concept of how much more you are capable of. It’s not a comfortable space, it’s the definition of being outside your comfort zone – but that’s where you’re going to learn something.I think people know what their impossibles are, deep down… The first step is to identify those moments where there’s a choice to make: you can follow this path because you know you can deliver a nice steady performance, learn nothing and achieve a reasonable goal. But at the same time there’s another potential path: a way to do something differently, or better. Why didn’t you choose that? Because it was a risk, and you thought you could fail. Once you start challenging things on a small level, you can keep growing.When it comes to the prism of possibilities, I’ve learnt that the real limit or “IMPOSSIBLE” is definitely not where your mind tells you it is. There is always significant margin on the other side of this ‘safe’ limit which is where the magic starts to happen. I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to help audiences to Push Past Impossible – not anyone else’s impossible, but rather their own.The space or MARGIN between those two lines is where you start to get a concept of how much more you are capable of. It’s not a comfortable space, it’s the definition of being outside your comfort zone – but that’s where you’re going to learn something.I think people know what their impossibles are, deep down… The first step is to identify those moments where there’s a choice to make: you can follow this path because you know you can deliver a nice steady performance, learn nothing and achieve a reasonable goal. But at the same time there’s another potential path: a way to do something differently, or better. Why didn’t you choose that? Because it was a risk, and you thought you could fail. Once you start challenging things on a small level, you can keep growing.