Start with what you want, not what you think you can get
Why focusing on ‘accessible goals’ will never get you where you want to be
In moments of doubt and uncertainty about my direction I sometimes look to what else is out there. I read job listings, look to what others are doing and see what is available to me.
But this is not where the answers are. And ultimately, I have realised that being led by others will only set me right back in my rut.
One event that radically changed my thinking about my direction - and about what is possible - was meeting Miles Hilton Barber the blind adventurer.
I met Miles when he spoke at an event run by a media agency when I worked in advertising. A day of media talks wasn’t the kind of place I expected to hear a life-altering story, but Miles was the surprise talk of the day. He told of how he had always dreamed of being a pilot, but after becoming blind in his twenties he had given it up as an impossible feat. He admitted to having held a victim mentality, believing the limitations on his own life. It wasn’t until his fifties (spurred on by his blind brother who was building his own boat!) that he finally decided to pursue his real goal.
Of course it wasn’t easy. Or straightforward. Imagine trying to register as a trainee pilot and then telling the person on the other end of the phone that you’re blind. It’s an absurd scenario. Needless to say, Miles was turned down many times.
But he focused relentlessly on his dream, and believed, despite all evidence to the contrary, that he could achieve it.
What this meant was that, instead of settling for what was available to him, he worked back from his end goal and found new ways to succeed. The first critical step was finding a way to get speech output on flight instruments. These didn’t exist at the time, but Miles found someone with the technical expertise to make in-flight speech output a reality.
“Look, we’re all going to die one day and we’re not going to come back as Brazilian tree frogs in the next life, so the things you want to do, you’ve got to do them now!” - Miles Hilton-Barber
There were challenges at all levels, from finding a co-pilot (who would risk their lives flying a microlight alongside a blind man?) to finding sponsorship for the whole adventure. Miles faced numerous setbacks and at any point he could have given up and settled for the life he already lived. But what kept him going was his dream - and his stubbornness in going after it.
When I interviewed Miles he was full of passion. He told me: “Look, we’re all going to die one day and we’re not going to come back as Brazilian tree frogs in the next life, so the things you want to do, you’ve got to do them now!”
Eventually all of Miles persistence paid off: he succeeded in flying a microlight plane from London to Sydney with revolutionary speech-output technology and a sighted co-pilot. Since then he’s gone on to complete many other adventures, including setting a world record as the first blind person to haul a sledge over 400 Km in Antarctica.
I share this story because I believe we all set ourselves limitations. We all have beliefs about what we can’t achieve because of this or that. We restrict ourselves unnecessarily.
But occasionally there are pioneers who show us that we can achieve more, we can be more and do more with our lives if only we persevere.
‘I didn’t understand that my role was perhaps not just to have a job but to try and light a candle, light a fire to show the way ‘ - Miles Hilton-Barber
So I want to ask you – what are the things you really want to achieve? Not the things you think are within your reach, but the possibly outlandish things you’re afraid to tell your friends and family for fear of sounding ridiculous.
The rewards of achieving big goals aren’t only yours. When you dare to put yourself and your reputation on the line and do the brave thing you inspire others. And that in itself is a great gift.
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