The Life and Times of A Remarkable Misfit

Misfit pictures

 Misfit event posterInterviewing AJ Leon was a very special event for me. My name is Martyn Sibley and alongside Lou Shackleton from the YouCan Hub, we organised and delivered a special Cambridge night at Hot Numbers recently. Here’s my take on the night.

My introduction for anyone not familiar with my blog or Disability Horizons magazine is this – I’m a dude in a wheelchair, who travels the world, runs e-projects on disability matters and just loves life.

Enough of my story though. None of my blogging, tweeting and world changing exploits would be possible without AJ, his awesome wife Melissa and his groundbreaking company Misfit-Inc. Back in July 2009 I approached AJ at the Institute of Fundraising convention following a breathtaking presentation. I shared a vision of empowering disabled people, and he saw potential. After a Starbucks meet up; we chatted, dreamed, agreed to collaborate and stated to never give up!

AJ and his crew run a digital agency, carry out social humanitarian work, encourage artistic creativity and travel the world beyond belief. They’re never in their New York home! 

Having launched his book: the event, a Cambridge Misfits meet up if you like, brought together like-minded people and gave me a personal chance to show my gratitude of AJ and also find out some new things too.

The former part was easy. Since the Misfits supported me creatively, strategically and instilled confidence we have chatted, laughed and got drunk numerous times. Our friendship runs deep and dreams remain.

Lou and Martyn interviewing AJ LeonThe latter was an interesting one. Lou and I had base questions. However the best of interviews and questions tend to be off the cuff. I enjoyed asking him if everyone should be Misfits, to which he replied “yes but not everyone will be”. I also loved his recounting of how we must live this one life the best way because even if you believe in reincarnation, we only get one chance. In acknowledgement of his depth but also the seriousness in the room I lightened the atmosphere with the random statement “I agree, it’s not possible to tweet when you’re a snail”. A testament to our philosophy and humour.

I felt as though the audience were stunned as to what AJ stood for, what he has achieved and how his character embraced everyone. More so, the questions showed intrigue, an appetite for more Misfit gold dust and a general demand for more of this vibe of an evening.

Working with Lou was a pleasure. She’s a true Misfit too. I hope we can recapture such an evening again in the future. Whilst AJ returns to his life journey I know he sparked people the way he did with my dream in 2009. On leaving Hot Numbers, the buzz in the room was incredible.

For me, the key take-aways were: dream big, never give up, love life!

Want to see more about the night? Check out the storify here.

Martyn Sibley

The Best Laid Plans and All That… Danger Lou’s Impossible is finally here

Lou's Feet in her Running Shoes

Last December, my husband signed me up for the gym. I didn’t manage to make it there at all that month and I finally had my induction in January. I wasn’t exactly over the moon with the whole gym idea. For a long time I’d been convinced that I’d reached the fitness limits of my health condition; I’d had lots of tweaks of medication over the years and was told, “Some people just feel rubbish on the medication you’re taking, because it’s not the same as your body making it yourself.” I’ve been running for a few years now, which has helped, but I was stuck at running around 2km.

I surprised myself quite quickly at the gym and despite being unable to lift a cup of tea to my lips the day after my first strength session, there were almost immediate gains in my energy levels. And so, in September, I set myself a challenge – an Impossible challenge. To make the shift from running 2.5km on a regular basis to trying my first 5km run.

I started my training schedule, with a date firmly in the diary at the end of October. It was all going so well. I rocketed through the training and my energy levels rocketed too. At the beginning of October, I wrote in my journal…

“Up to last week I still felt unsure about running 5km. It seemed a big jump from running 2.5km, 3km. Can I really do this? From my running rate it seems that it’s going to take me 40-45 minutes. Am I fit enough? Yesterday on the treadmill, I managed 3.9km and it started to feel real. But then, today, I totally surprised myself. I walked for 5 minutes, ran for 25 minutes, walked for 5 minutes… and at the end the treadmill dashboard said it loud and proud – I did 5k! This is it! I feel certain now, 100% certain that I will finish the run and still be standing. I might even enjoy it! I might even do it in a good time!”

It was amazing! I felt invincible! But since then, this challenge has been more about patience, flexibility, and healing. First, I started getting a niggle in my heel. I listened to it, and eased off on the training. I reduced the amount I was cycling. Then I picked up a throat infection, just three days before my run date. It all happened very quickly and before I knew it I had sky high fever and difficulty swallowing. The pharmacist dispatched me to a walk-in clinic and the duty doctor made a “Ugh” sound with accompanying facial expression when he looked at my tonsils – antibiotics for me, and no chance of a run. I shifted the date a few weeks down the line, needing to have total rest for a week. Then after my rest, feeling much better, I started back into my training and my heel flared up in a major way. I took it really easy with my training and got some tips via the Internets from my cousin Aimee over at Revitalise Fitness; these really helped and it stopped getting worse, but it still didn’t get better.

It was time to call in the big guns, and get some in-person physio. I checked in with Tom at Core Fitness, and it turned out to be a classic beginner runner’s injury, my Achilles. There was nothing serious, just some early warning signs. The tips from my cousin were perfect, I just needed a couple of extra exercises. It was time to do some learning – learning how to better prepare my body for running, and help it to restore afterwards. And absolutely no 5k until I could consistently run 3k without pain the next day.

My date got shifted again. Serious frustration alert! Am I ever going to be able to do this run? I had two potential November dates in my mind, and they both had to get swept aside again. I did a fair amount of huffing and puffing and whingeing – mostly to my husband, Mel and Ruth at You Can, and my fellow Impossibles in our facebook group. They encouraged me to hang in there. I responded well to the exercises I was given, and in two weeks I was back to running with no pain. Result! Excitement, but still taking it easy and some words of caution from the physio – you’re lucky, you caught it early, you probably feel like it’s all back to normal but it’s going to take a while to settle down so don’t do anything to shock it. So I’m staying away from my bike until after my run, because cycling seems to make it worse, and I’m being super-good about my warm ups and cool downs, and I’ve been slowly increasing the distance with a mix of walk-running.

And now, here I am. The day before D-Day. Or is that 5K-Day? I’m actually going to do it. And I haven’t run or walk-run 5k since that amazing day on the treadmill back in October. James Altucher writes that it takes practice to be the person who is a source of compassion and honesty. This journey towards my Impossible could have been about pushing through, just powering on to stick to my committed date. But defeating my nemesis, the Robot of Mediocrity, isn’t always about fighting. I’ve learned much more by doing things this way – being honest with myself, showing myself compassion, letting myself heal and learning new ways to be compassionate to myself – even in the way that I prepare for and wind down from a run. I’m also in awe of the compassion and generosity of my friends, family, and supporters who have continued to back me with messages and donations – as for an extra level of accountability, I decided to make my challenge a sponsored event to raise funds for our work.

I hope that I show myself this same level of compassion tomorrow, whatever my time. For now, the predominant feeling is: Eek!

Wish me luck.

_ _ _

You can read James Altucher on patience here. And yes – maybe, just maybe, I’m on my way to becoming a Jedi Knight. And that beats running a 5k, any day!

And of course there’s still time to make a donation, if you’d like :-) Head on over to my sponsorship page here and hit the big orange “Donate now” button, and any donation up to £10 will be matched by our local community foundation, so you can double your money. Serious feel good factor! With match funding and gift aid I’ve already raised over £1000. So thank you to you fabulous donors!

If you want to take on your own challenge soon and you want some friendly support, check out the Impossibles. Your challenge doesn’t have to be sponsored and you can have a whole lot of fun along the way!

The Impossible Seems Easier Together

Remember The Impossibles and how a small group of ordinary superheroes are taking on challenges that they think are super super hard? Well, Ruth has now completed hers thanks to friends and jelly babies…

Ruth really does love anything cycling related and her favourite way to get around is on her two wheeled, basket on front, proper Cambridge towny bike (we’re still waiting on her tweed suit to match!). With coordinating You Can Bike Too and her own leisurely cycling combined, I’m not sure there are many people who think about bikes quite as much as Ruth! So when we asked her if she wanted to set herself an impossible challenge, surprise surprise, it was cycling related! This towny cyclist was going to ride 62 miles from Cambridge to Kings Lynn through the Fens!

And by golly she has gone and done it!

You might be surprised by Ruth’s response below, she certainly was. Have you ever done something big and then felt a little….disappointed?

Ruth with bike at Kings Lynn

Ruth made it to Kings Lynn!

“I did it! And, you know, I’m not sure if I’m surprised with myself or not…which seems a bit odd to me. I thought I’d be amazed, giving myself a huge pat on the back for achieving my ‘Impossible’. Instead, I feel more like, ‘yep I did well’. Sure, while I was peddling past Denver Sluice it felt like a challenge.. but now, it actually feels like it was easier than I thought it would be.I’ve been trying to work out why I feel like this. Is it because I knew I could do it before I set off? Sure, maybe there is an element of that but I still feel a little disappointed that I have not got a ‘wow, that was incredible’ feeling.

So how do I feel about my cycle ride?

As I was cycling I had the song sung by Lou Reed going around my head – ‘It’s such a perfect day’! I thought about how lucky I was to be outdoors, seeing huge grey skies that threatened rain. I felt warmth in the knowledge that my legs were working smoothly doing a good job! Although the mud on the road and the potato picking machines made me nervous, I admired the fact that they brought the ‘extra’ challenge to me – staying on my bike! I felt ‘soothed’ by the fact that all those people had sponsored me – they had faith in my abilities… They ‘carried’ me along!

 


What has been amazing, what has really given me the ‘wow’ factor is people’s willingness to ‘back’ me. Whether it be financially (money raised is going to You Can) and/or with lovely encouraging words – I value both equally. I have had such lovely comments said to me either about the way I work or the cause that I am raising funds for…it’s hard to measure that impact.

So the bike ride is done! But the ‘takeaway’ for me was more than the money and was more than the 62 miles I peddled! Thank you to all those people in my ‘world’ that believed in me. You have reminded me of the importance of letting others know what a great job they are doing too. Having people believe in me feels really good and I want others to have that feeling too!

And one last big thank you from my bike to Ben Haywards for treating it with the kindness and attention it needed before the big ride!”

So, Ruth’s Impossible started as a personal challenge where she figured she’d have to pull on some incredible inner strength from somewhere to succeed. But really, what got her through this challenge was more about community. It’s the pats on the back, the ‘you can do it’ attitude of her friends and acquaintances – oh and a few jelly babies which she says without she “may not have gotten past 10 Mile Bank”! We are all very proud of Ruth for completing this challenge and excited to help her complete many more in the future.

What personal challenge are you currently taking on, or thinking about taking on? Does it seem daunting and out of the reach of one human being? Well, if Ruth’s story is anything to go by then perhaps all of our challenges would seem less impossible – more possible – if we were to surround ourselves with a supportive community.

Need a community of do gooders who are experts in cheering each other on? Perhaps you’d like to take part in The Impossibles.

Ruth pushing her bike up gutter by stairs

Who needs to lift a bike when it has its own gutter!

 

Ruth eating jelly babies

Ruth’s supportive community – in jelly form!

 

Ruth by Adventure Fen sign

It’s all adventure in the fens!

Kicking the Pedestal

man standing on pedestal

Pic by flickr user Zenilorac

Being different isn’t being better.

I have spent my whole life running away from ‘supposed to’, ‘should’ and ‘just because’. I feel different. I feel like I think differently. I don’t feel like I fit in. Not surprisingly, I often hear negative ‘voices’, misinterpretations of ‘me’ being ‘me’.

“You are just seeking the limelight”

“You want to be different just because”

“Well, it’s alright for some”

“You are getting people’s hopes up. Setting them up for failure”

“It’s just a phase, go off and do your adventures and then you’ll come back to reality”

The worst one of all is: “You think you are so much better than everyone else” or “what gives you the right to think differently. You think you are so special”.

Does any of this sound familiar? Have you heard these negative “voices”? Admittedly, while I have heard people say some of the above, many of them are my own fears about what people think. Sometimes, I think I can see it in their eyes. My greatest fear is that because I can see things in a different way, because I challenge the way things are done, people think that I believe I am better than them.

But I am NOT better.

In fact, in all honesty, for much of the time I feel not better than others, but worse. I feel like an outcast. My self doubt is my own worst enemy. Trust me on this. I often feel like I have no right to challenge the ‘systems’… but I can’t help myself. It’s the way my mind works, the way I think.

A lot of what I choose to do, I do partly because it is different… but never ‘just because’. When me and my crew of ordinary superheroes started The You Can Hub, we were keen to do things differently. This is a huge part of who we are. With this, I frequently feel terrified that people might think I am putting myself on a pedestal above the rest. Do you ever get this feeling? How often are you shaking in your boots out of fear that someone might think that you are special? Or worse, that they think that you think you are special?

I don’t believe in pedestals. I battle hierarchy every day. I believe that everyone can, that we all have an incredible gift to share with the world that only we as individuals can do in our own unique way. Everyone has an ability, a unique superpower perhaps. If people are put on pedestals then it means that they are somehow better than the rest. More importantly, it means that they are making others feel small. I never want anybody to feel small, because I know what it feels like.

One day recently, I realised that I am not putting myself on a pedestal. I am putting the imagined responses of other people on a pedestal. Well, frankly, that’s ridiculous.

It’s time to kick the pedestal from under my fears and from under yours too.

Let’s look at our strengths with new courage. Thinking and seeing things differently is my superpower. My natural curiosity means I ask different questions, which in turn helps others think differently too. Give me an idea and I can see it happening in the future. I see potential in everyone – yes, in you too. Being able to visualise this potential happening means that I get rather excited and I can’t help but try to show you this new world too.

So if these are my gifts, my superpowers, then it is my duty to share them with the world and to use them as much as possible. Yes, I think I am different in the way that I do these things. But you are different in the way that you do something too. We each have unique gifts and it is integral that we humbly share them with the world.

What are your superpowers? Do you feel different? Do you battle with the same inner demons and fears of judgement? What or who are you putting on a pedestal and how will you *kick it? Write your thoughts in the comments below. By talking about them we make them more real, we make them tangible and it’s a hell of a lot easier to “kick it” together.

Watch out world, here we come!

 

 

*Warning, I imagine kicking a real physical pedestal would hurt…a lot. Maybe stick to the metaphor!

Calling Cambridge Misfits!

The Life and Times of a Remarkable Misfit is coming to Cambridge!

Not only that, but Princess of Organising Chaos over at Misfit Inc, Jessie White, has put together this awesome poster.

[gview file="http://theyoucanhub.org.uk/files/2013/11/Misfit-Gig-Cambridge-Poster.pdf" height="1300px" save="0"]

Misfit friends, new or long-standing, are invited to join us – if you would like more information and a free ticket head over to our booking page!

Ruth’s Impossible – and her “Moscow Moment!”

Ruth cycling her back through the countryside

I’m Ruth, one of The Impossibles, and I have set myself a challenge of riding my old bike 50 miles!

The exclamation mark indicates to me (and hopefully to you) that, for me, this is a long, long way!! It is way out of my ‘comfort zone’. I was away recently and got chatting to a guy who had cycled from London to Moscow!!! My jaw dropped…I was staggered…so many miles…I began to question if what I was doing was ‘enough’….then on reflection I realised that actually my journey is the equivalent of his Moscow!!!

The journey is such that it is a challenge…I’m the one who has set it…and I know that it is going to be an achievement. I think too often we question if we can do something new because it is too big to imagine doing..we need to think ‘steps’ ( or pedals?!) and this is the way we break through that ‘I can’t do that barrier’.

Why am I doing this you may ask…I want to make my pulse race! (in the nicest possible way!!)

So what has the You Can Hub done for me? I have been working with them for about two years. The following will help to put you in the picture I think about the ‘why’.

I’ve always been a team player….never a leader…but since working with the You Can Hub I’ve recognised that I can do it! I can do both!The You Can Hub has helped me to feel that my decisions…my choices are valid…that they have come from my experiences which I now realise is actually extensive! I now feel as if people want to know what I think…they want to know how I work…I seem to be a person who has something to say and others want to know about it! The You Can Hub has done that!

It has felt a two way process… I’m giving as well as receiving…I like that! I don’t feel as though I’m being mentored…it’s about natural positive support…enabling me to try stuff out…not to feel panic stricken if things don’t work out…reminding me that we often learn the most when we make mistakes…and that’s actually not only ok but bloody brilliant! New stuff happens!

There have been tears! But actually they’ve mostly been tears of laughter! There has been the odd occasion when I felt that its all too much…so I’ve cried…and I’ve discovered actually its not been about it all being ‘too much’ it’s actually been about change happening ….and I’ve ‘wobbled’ …(nothing wrong with worry wobbles I say)..so now I recognise that I feel more in control…less panicky…

Through The You Can Hub I have become project facilitator of a project called You Can Bike Too. I did that! The You Can Bike Too project has developed further than I would have thought possible…it’s continuing to develop… The You Can Hub has helped me to see the ‘bigger picture’. I am a very ‘reactive’ person who likes to deal with what’s in front of me…sort it! I’m now beginning to relax re the bigger picture…!

So how does it work? Offers of help….doing the stuff that I struggle with…whilst encouraging me to ‘have a go’ …praising my efforts…”your passion shines through!” Those kind of words(whilst I struggle to fill in a funding form!) Help to say that I don’t know how to…even the little things… I feel that it’s ok (must be annoying!) to say where’s the ‘on’ button? ( if you know what I mean!)

So I’m doing my ‘Moscow’ cycle ride very soon…I’ve decided to be part of The You Can ‘The Impossibles.’ These people are people who cheer you on…help you to see that there is a community out there willing you on to do it! I love the fact that there is a Facebook group for people who choose their challenge and need support off each other…giving and receiving support from each other. People who are total strangers can come together in their Impossible Community.

My big ride is this Friday, weather permitting. I’ll let you know how I get on! Bring it on! For an extra level of accountability I’m doing this as a sponsored challenge, raising funds for the You Can Hub. Please feel free to make me accountable and make a donation! Click the link to read more about me and make a donation on my sponsorship page.

And feel free to get involved! Join the Impossibles!

It’s raining, it’s pouring, I don’t wish I was snoring…

Twenty days ago I wrote a post explaining why I was getting up earlier in response to Mel’s question, “Why would you want to do that?!” It’s incredible to think that I’m now on Day 27 of my 30 Day Sunrise Photo Challenge, with only three days to go. Twenty seven days, twenty five photos.

When I was only a week in, everything still felt pretty easy. I was really enjoying the novelty and I guess I was still in the honeymoon period. Then things got tougher – about eleven days in, I got sick. I caught a particularly nasty and fast-acting form of tonsillitis – my resistance is always lower in the Autumn and Winter months. 

This challenge was never about forcing it – it was about supporting my well-being, not detracting from it, so I made sure to take care of myself on the days that I was ill. So on some days, I took the photo from the warmth of my window before heading back to bed, and on two of the days when my temperature was raging I left the alarm off and didn’t make it out of bed at all.

It was tough to get back into the rhythm again. It was an interesting time because although my body was struggling to get out of bed, there was also this urge to be outside. A sense of what I was missing. At the same time thinking, I have to do this every day? I wanted to, but it also felt like a big commitment.

Today, it was absolutely chucking it down when I got out of bed. The last time it rained properly (Day Two) it didn’t look like rain when I left the house and I didn’t wear waterproofs. It was stunning, with the rain on the lens smudging the image and giving it an even softer focus. Then it also started raining on Day Twenty, and you can just about see it in the puddles in the foreground while the sun stakes its claim on the day. Both days, the beauty was the most obvious thing, the first thing, and the rain came second.

This morning, the rain came first. It was grey. Grey, grey, grey. I thought, well, it’s not going to be spectacular. Dark clouds everywhere. I set off with my hubby in the car. Here’s a couple of blurry shots to give you a sense of the blustery downpour:

silhouette trees against sunrise in the rain umbrella fights against the wind in the rain at sunrise silhouette trees against sunrise in the rain

We were soaked; it was kind of funny! Our waterproofs did us proud, and we got back in the car. We set off for home, and decided to take a detour and try a different location. As we arrived, the rain lessened and we set off for an explore. The paths were streams; it was less soggy on the common. We walked and talked and looked and pointed things out to each other. We saw a heron flying through the sky, saw him swoop down to land, hop over a fence and explore a pond, his head just poking up above the reeds, peeking around. Then taking off and flying around the corner. The cows looked at us curiously. One of them gave us the stinkeye. One of them licked hubby’s coat.

For much of the sunrise, the clouds were obscuring the sun, and the gaps for the light to come through were all in the western half of the sky. Eventually, the wind blew them around so that the sun could show its face. We walked through an avenue of trees, the sun streaming through all the intertwined twigs and the leaves transitioning from green to yellow. I took my chosen shot of the day:

27th October 2013 - Day Twenty Seven

I’ve been very lucky on this challenge I think, that it hasn’t rained more. On the three occasions that it has rained, I have realised that something very special happens. If the sun and the rain combine, they have more power than either one. These shots that I’ve taken where the colours of the sky are reflected in the river (Day Two) or the puddles (Day Twenty), or where the wetness of the rain makes the surface wood of a fence much more reflective (today) – these are the days that I love the most. I’m continuing to answer the question, “Why would you want to do that?!”

As at Day Eight, once I’m out, I still find it difficult to come home again. And I think that the thing about commitment is, once you make it, it becomes easier. Getting up at sunrise every single day makes it easier to get up the next day; while having a break makes it harder again. Committing to make a change, one change, and see it through for 30 days has changed other things too, and I will try to explore these in my next post. This wasn’t a challenge I was scared of or excited about, but it was a change I thought was impossible, or at the very least would be really hard. It felt dangerous, because I really didn’t think I would be able to do it. And that’s what Danger Lou’s all about, right?

The magic of this time of day has seeped into my bones and my life and I really think that it has changed me. Three more days to go. What will I do after that?

Check out the full set so far here. If you like what you see, I’d love it if you would consider supporting my 5k challenge.

Introducing… The Impossibles!

The Impossibles Challenge

What will you do to show the world that you can?

Today we introduce you to seven individuals, some of whom may be familiar to you and some of whom may be new, all of whom have decided to commit to taking action to make a positive change in their lives, to do something that builds towards their dream, and also shows how much they believe in and respect themselves. They are united by a desire to make a change, to stretch themselves at the edge of their comfort zone and learn about themselves, providing mutual support in the process.

We are the Impossibles. We don’t have all the answers. We do believe that amazing things happen when you define your impossible – the thing that you think you can’t do. We decided to see what happens if more people defined their impossible. And so, here we are. We stand before you, each with a challenge, a challenge that, once, seemed impossible. We stand united, committed to helping each other through the tough times, and celebrating the good times. We’re ready to show the world that we can.

Meet the Impossibles

Ordinary Superhero Ruth

Meet Ruth. Ruth loves all things bikes but considers herself a ‘town cyclist’, not a distance one. So, she’s decided to cycle her furthest yet – 50+ miles!! Pedal power!

 

 

 

Ordinary Superhero Mel

Meet Mel. A long time ago, Mel used to play guitar. She’s strummed and she’s hummed, but mainly in the privacy of her own home. Now it’s time to let her voice shine as she takes on her first public performance!

 

 

 

Ordinary Superhero Michael

Meet Michael. Michael has been journalling for over 16 years. He’s a writer! And yet, he is timid about sharing his words with the world. With the support of his fellow Impossibles he’s going to start to share his writing, one step at a time, culminating in a public post before the end of December!

 

 

Ordinary Superhero Deb

Meet Deb. Deb is on a mission – a fitness mission! Her impossible is getting to the gym, and her aim is to work towards four gym visits a week, embedding it into her routine!

 

 

 

Ordinary Superhero NeilMeet Neil. Neil has a self-confessed addiction to sugar. However, he’s seen the impact its had on his health and he’s determined to change his relationship with food. By the end of December he’s completing a food challenge, sticking to a healthy meal plan for 30 days straight.

 

 

Ordinary Superhero Lou

Meet Lou. Lou is no athlete. Even before her health condition, she’s never been sporty. And since her health condition, she’s struggled with her fitness. It’s time for her to don her running shoes and try her first 5k run – and be the fittest she’s ever been in her life!

 

 

Ordinary Mystery SuperheroMeet our mystery Impossible. She’s recovering from a serious operation and struggling with the speed of her progress. So, she’s setting herself an Impossible challenge – one that’s all around TLC. She’s going to be taking better care of herself, so that she can make a positive contribution to her own well-being, and let her body take care of the rest!

 

 

See the full line-up of our Impossibles here, and prepare to hear more from them as they take steps to turn their Impossible into Possible!

If you want in on this amazing journey, join The Impossibles, and together we will answer the question, “What are you going to show the world that you can?”

Ambition vs Celebration – The Epic Battle

Finally, video 29 of Mel’s 30 day Scare The Crap Out Of Myself Video Challenge has arrived….and it’s time to celebrate!

How many of you would consider yourselves to be super ambitious? You dream big and sometimes struggle to think small. You are always looking ahead and rarely look backwards. Well, this is me…and it’s a part of myself that I am most proud of but that I also get the most frustrated with. Because I am looking forward I forget to look back and celebrate what I have achieved. This generally results in negative self talk, convincing myself that I haven’t achieved much. Well, this is video 29 and I am almost to my 30! So, I’ve decided to look back for once, and celebrate this incredible journey. Join me in celebrating?

*warning, I may dance at the end of this video…

For 30 days I have posted a video which describes doing something that both scares and excites me, one learning point, and a take away. Join me through my ‘Hell yeah!’ moments and my ‘Oh Sh*t’ moments for the next 30 days and please do cheer me on! The next video will be my last in this challenge and will focus on what I learned during the process and how you can start your own 30 day challenge. See the rest of the 30 days here 

Why on earth would you do this, Mel?

For Me: To bring some structure back in my life. To prove to myself that I can follow through. To document my journey at this scary time. To feel alive.

For You: Perhaps you are on a similar journey, thinking of making a change or needing to give yourself a kick in the bum to get going. I hope that following my journey will help you feel that you are not alone and inspire you to go out and do things that scare you too. Because in the end, it is by finding and doing something that makes you come alive that we truly start to make a dent in the world. Want to scare the crap out of yourself on film? Start your own challenge and let us know that you do! Share it on twitter with #stcoom (short for scarethecrapoutofmyself!)

Why Danger Lou’s goal is to get up earlier…

Goal posts in the sunlight

In the past seven days, I’ve been making a start on my first 30 day impossible challenge – to get up, get outside, and get a photo of the sun rising. As Mel recently asked, “Why would you want to do that?” – and I thought you might like to know too!

Ever since I was ill back in 2007, I have really struggled to get out of bed in the morning. I had some problems with getting diagnosed which meant that by the time I got appropriate treatment I was spending three quarters of the day in bed and still not feeling rested or refreshed. I found it incredibly difficult to wake up in the morning; I didn’t respond to the alarm, and my now husband used to have to wake me up, almost like being woken from a drugged sleep.

Once I was on the right treatment, I still had problems. I’ve struggled on and off with chronic fatigue and after some experimentation with medication in the years after my diagnosis I was finally told “some people just feel rubbish on the meds you take” (I take a synthetic form of a hormone that my body has stopped producing as a result of an autoimmune disease).

Related to my health challenges, I’m planning on running a 5k this Autumn (something you’ll hear about soon if you keep an eye on #theimpossibles). This is something that would have been impossible for me not that long ago. A side-effect of needing to do more training to build up my fitness was a need for more space in the morning. So it was time for an experiment. Could I get up earlier?

This felt so difficult I knew I needed two things:
1) An incentive
2) External accountability

I voiced my concerns to my good friend and photographer Israel Smith and he set me a challenge – get up and see the sunrise by the end of the week. Then report back. I reported back in the form of a photo:

First Sunrise Challenge for Israel

It was a great experience. I learned that I could get up early, actually – it wasn’t physically impossible. And I learned that I enjoyed it. The only thing is, after a few days I was back to struggling to get up again. They say it takes 30 days to set a new habit, so I decided to turn this little experiment into a 30 Day Impossible Challenge and see if I could make a more permanent change to my daily routine.

So, what does it feel like to be on Day Eight? With 22 more days to go? It’s actually kind of surprising…

I’m really enjoying it.

The last couple of days I have been awake before the alarm goes off. The “problem” that has emerged is that I am actually struggling to come home. Once I’m out, it’s such a magical atmosphere and there’s so many amazing things to see and learn. I’m developing a friendly relationship with my local cows – although they’re getting a little too friendly with my bike:

Play "Spot the Bike"

Play “Spot the Bike”

I’m noticing the patterns of the day – the way the cows move around the fields in the morning, the way the birds are hidden but singing at first, but then once the sun’s gold emerges they start dancing through the sky. The way the water on the river is milky still some days, and rippled on others.

I am tired. But actually, I don’t think I’m any more tired than before. I’ve had days where, at the end of the day, I’ve felt very tired. But that just means that I do less in the evening, and think more carefully about what I do with my energy at that time. And actually, I’m sleeping a lot better. I was sleeping really fitfully before, and now I sleep right through. I’m being careful to get to sleep earlier and have a good sleep routine. The week before I started the challenge, I had a week away with my husband and we had a sort-of retreat – we made a pact not to watch TV. And I found that’s really helped too; not watching TV in the evenings means that I’m more likely* to make better decisions about what I need to do to look after myself.

It’s funny because for the past five years, I haven’t thought of myself as an early riser – not at all. And this little experiment might just have turned that thought on it’s head, and had some unexpected benefits – the discovery of some magical creative time in the morning, time when I can take photos of cows and spiders and bikes and grass and feel just a little bit more grateful about things.

What about you – does my “Impossible” seem like a walk in the park for you? If you did a 30 Day Challenge, what would it be? Which area of your life do you want to experiment with?

* No one’s perfect, right? :-)

You can see the full set of photos I’ve taken so far here: Lou’s 30 Day Sunrise Photo Challenge on Flickr. I can’t wait to hear what you think!