Dreaming up adventures is easy, making them happen is relatively strait forward, doing them can be a challenge, but the hardest decision by far, is when to admit defeat.
This week I gave a talk about three of my favourite expeditions. It had been a while since I last reflected upon one in particular, my first ‘real’ expedition. Circumnavigating one of the largest islands in the Mediterranean, the Italian island of Sardinia. For a long time I believed this expedition was a failure, a goal I never really achieved, a trip left unfinished, and a measure against my ability to complete a challenge.
In a perfect world you set out to achieve your goals, but when faced with endless hurdles to jump, how many do you leap before it becomes one to many, or they become simply to high?
I remember the moment I accepted we wouldn't make it, still 150km to kayak and only three days left. Relentless waves preventing any kind of safe launch, a head wind strong enough to push you backwards, and a diary from the past 30 days, ladened with trials and tribulations already overcome.
We had been pushing head winds, negotiated committing headlands, paddling for several hours a day to gain mere distances of 15km. Anything was better than nothing. The days prior, our determination and focus kept us from believing failure was even an option, far too driven to allow it to get a grip upon us.
But what happens when it all comes to a head? How do you accept defeat or surrender when you have worked so hard to get to where you are?
Experience is not a failure but a invaluable addition to who you are. It is purly a delay in success, not an outright defeat, a temporary detour, rather than a dead end.
With three years of hinsight I have realised paddling 700 of 850km around Sardinia wasn't failure, it was an experience which prepared me for adventures to come. It was the steepest learning curve of my life so far. I took the leap to make it happen, followed a dream, planned it, got us to the start line and paddled a stonking 700km around Sardinia. Succeeding every single day that nature allowed us to get on the water. I became a better leader, adapted, reacted and overcame every problem I faced.
It certainly wasn’t a failure. In-fact, it was the first step to realising what I’m really capable of. Opening up another opportunity to start again, only this time stronger, tougher and wiser. Failure is just a way of testing our limits, a reminder that challenges don't come easily, and success has to be worked for.