NHA Lifestyle Blog

Stop what you are doing and do epic shit instead

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When I first began leading adventure tours in Africa, I was terrible at my job. Uneducated, unorganized and unprepared; I was all of the above. When I started out as a travel writer, I was unable to structure a sentence. And when I began cycling across Africa two years ago, I managed twenty five kilometres on the first day before crumbling to an emotional mess and falling unconscious in the grass next to my tent.

Point being, I was crap at everything I now do for a living.

It got me thinking today about this guy I know named Keith and then it left me wondering about the following question; why exactly are most people so focused on what they are good at and not nearly as invested in what they want from life?

I would like to answer this question today with two very short stories; one about Keith and one about love.

A Story about Keith

keith

Some years ago I played for a local football team in Dublin, we were pretty average at the time but good enough to require a certain standard for anyone to join. One day this young lad came up to play a trial for us with his brother and while his brother was in fact a very good player, Keith was almost embarrassing. At one point I remember his boot coming off when he ran into a goalpost and the manager pleading with him to come back off the field. He did last the full ninety minutes that day but walking out of the changing room afterward, I remember looking over at Keith, who was still gasping for air, and assuming it would be the last time anyone heard from him.

But Keith was back two days later to train with us and two days after that again. He was still terrible but he was there and to his credit, this time he wasn’t hungover. In fact, a few weeks later as our team was on the verge of being relegated, Keith was still training hard at every session while most of our talented players had already lost heart and stopped showing up. Anyway, Keith went on to become an amazing player and to this day, I am still lost for words when I think back about how he went from terrible to being one of the most valuable players on the team. With every session his improved stamina allowed for him to outwork his opponent and for reasons which are still unknown to me now, he developed an incredible amount of skill which most definitely did not exist beforehand.

As time went on Keith would even go on to play for clubs far above our level. It was insane and to be honest, I absolutely hated playing against him as he was ruthless with his tackling but at the same time, he was so utterly obsessed about winning every tackle, every sprint and every game, that I just loved having him on our side.

A close friend of mine once said that Keith looked up to me with great admiration throughout those years but the truth is, I often thought about skipping training back with the rest of the players and it was the thought of Keith up there on his own sweating it out in the rain that inspired me to push myself harder. He was/is simply an amazing person and the most inspiring player I have ever played with, or against.

A story about love

Story About love

Anyway, back to the question at hand; why are so many people obsessed with what the are good at rather than what they want to do?

For me, I need to look to my younger self in order to answer this question, for I often think back to my late teens and when it came to deciding school subjects, college courses and jobs, the only real option I seemed to be aware of during this time, was to choose whatever I was good at. And so I persevered with accounting studies, took a course in Engineering, left college for an entry level job with an insurance company and then ended up resenting every last one of these decisions. It was utterly stupid, I decided to pursue things I did not enjoy only to wake up one morning and feel completely miserable that any of it happened.

See, it just seems to me now that I got it all wrong back then, that I was too busying thinking about what I was good at and not considering for a moment that it might not be what I wanted to do. Sure, it makes sense that you tend to be better at the things you enjoy and this is why some people go on to do them for a living but honestly, what if I decided not to cycle across Africa because I had no cycling experience? What if I stopped travel writing for fear I could never do it full time? What if we listened to all the misleading advice, the self doubt and false truths that surrounded us today?

Then Keith would never have inspired me playing football and I may never have answered the question; there is simply no point spending time on doing something you don’t enjoy, when you can always learn to do something you love instead.

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Adventurer & Adventure Travel Blogger from Dublin, Ireland. In late 2013 after the loss of both parents and a realization that his life was descending into chaos, Derek began riding a bicycle solo across Africa while sleeping in a tent. It was here that he discovered a true passion for the outdoors, travel writing and the general unexpected nature of life.

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