“Do you guys want tea?” Julie asked, while holding her three-month old son, Oliver. Her husband, Colin, was showing me designs he creates and sells for custom rowboats. I got off the floor and followed the couple into their living room. Julie and Colin are a bit like Clark Kent and Diana Prince (Wonder Woman’s alter ego). At first glance, they look pretty normal: two young kids, nice home, white picket fence, Toyota Matrix in the driveway. But when you dig a little deeper…
Colin was the world’s first person to circumnavigate the globe on his own power. He crossed continents by bicycle, rowed across oceans in a rowboat.
In 2006, National Geographic jointly granted Colin and Julie the Adventurer of the Year Award. They had rowed across the Atlantic Ocean from mainland Europe. Julie became the first woman to do so. She documented the journey in her bestselling book, Rowboat in a Hurricane, after surviving two hurricanes and one tropical storm.
In 2008 they fit collapsible bikes, a tent and cooking gear into a couple of custom rowboats. They traveled by water and land from Scotland to Syria. While cycling, they towed their boats on trailers. While rowing, they stowed their bikes in watertight compartments. Julie and Colin told their story in the book, Rowed Trip.
A few years later, they had children. But it didn’t slow them down. They sailed the Mediterranean Sea when their son, Leif, was a newborn. They’re planning to enter their other son, Oliver, in a race up Ben Nevis, Great Britain’s highest mountain. He would join a batch of other kids under the age of 12…months. The saga is being proposed as a British television reality show. Colin says it will be entertaining and educational. “If babies can climb Ben Nevis, think of what the rest of us can achieve.”
Sure it sounds crazy. So does nearly everything else that Colin and Julie have done. Most people wouldn’t want to row a boat across the Atlantic. Nor would they sail the Mediterranean with a newborn.
But people do want to bottle what the Angus’ drink. They’re a popular attraction on the speaking circuit, sharing their adventure stories with inspiration and strategies for us mere mortals to achieve our own goals.
Julie says there are three important things that goal-oriented people need to master. The first is to recognize realistic limitations. “Before fully committing to a goal, be sure to do your advance homework and truthfully assess if you have the ability to take it on.”
Colin adds that when you decide on a goal, you need to plan meticulously.
“Learn everything you can, leaving no stone unturned. The more knowledge you have, the higher the chance of success.”
Steven Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People provides similar advice. "All things are created twice. There's a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation of all things. You have to make sure that the blueprint, the first creation, is really what you want, that you've thought everything through.”
Finally, the couple stresses taking baby steps. “Be sure every stage of your goal is broken into manageable bite-sized steps,” says Julie. “When people are overwhelmed they become frustrated, want to quit, and problems become unmanageable. Understand your objective, and break it into as many steps as required to get it done.”
Forbes magazine contributor Lewis Howes wrote an article titled, Why Thinking Small Is The Secret To Big Success. He says that people who fail to achieve their goals don’t often think small enough. “If your goal is ‘to lose 50 lbs’- turn it into ‘eat one healthy breakfast this week.’ If your goal is to ‘start a business’ – change it to ‘interview one business owner.’”
It makes sense. Achieving small goals builds confidence. It’s one of the reasons athletes break large goals into a series of smaller ones. Let’s say somebody wants to break 4 hours for the marathon. It’s easier when they make smaller progressive goals along the way: a six-mile race, a half marathon. The same premise could be applied to any pursuit, whether it’s professional, social, educational or athletic.
You don’t have to take death-defying adventures like Colin and Julie. But sipping some of their Kool-Aid helps.