It was 1990, I was 27 years old, and with my best friend Simon, and we were fulfilling a dream hatched in the playground at school when we were ten years old, to race a small 34-foot yacht across the North Atlantic Ocean, against the prevailing winds and currents from Plymouth in England to Newport Rhode Island in the USA. We’d chosen a route called the “Great Circle”, which is the same route taken by airliners, which is the shortest route. The route is the same route used by the RMS Titanic, that takes you far to the north, where depending upon the conditions and times of year, you can come across Icebergs, after which, you have to get through the dense fog of the Grand Banks, to the East of Newfoundland in Canada.
We were so excited by the adventure, and I had never felt more alive, we were really living, but slowly the dream started to turn into a nightmare, as serious faults started to develop with the yacht. We were almost half way across the Atlantic when things started to go seriously wrong. What started as an adventure, quickly turned into a struggle for survival; we were in a very cold, unforgiving, and desolate ocean. The nearest land, Ireland, was behind us, we turned back, our dream was over, it was now a question of whether we would make it. The boat is leaking so badly, the floor boards are floating around the inside of the boat, it’s icy cold, the waves are huge, the wind is screaming through the rigging, the main bulkhead had cracked under the pressure, the steering wheel wouldn’t turn beyond the halfway position, but we were still making good progress back towards Ireland. The wind generator was going crazy because the wind is so strong, which is just as well, because the engine no longer worked; it gave us just enough power to make a crackly call to Falmouth Coastguard, via a high power HF Radio. There was no doubt about it, we were on the edge, it was a serious survival situation; the coastguard spoke to the Royal Air Force, who scrambled a Nimrod long range reconnaissance plane from RAF Kinloss in Scotland. What was perhaps unusual is that whilst serving as an Officer onboard HMS Guernsey, we were affiliated to RAF 201 Squadron and as part of this, I was given the opportunity to fly in the Nimrod in a sortie over the Atlantic Ocean, so I’d been on the other side. This was a time before accurate GPS navigation, and working out your position with a sextant, with no horizon or stars, is all but impossible. The Nimrods are the size of an airliner, suddenly through a gap in the murky grew skies this beast of an aeroplane emerges, coming in low, it screams overhead, and banks tightly, circling around us. By now our plight for survival is on the national news, we’ve made it back to within about 200 miles from the West Coast of Ireland, when things started to get much worse, the yacht was knocked over by giant waves, it’s mast hitting the water, and then with an almighty bang, the entire steering wheel and its base snaps off completely, the rudder jammed hard to starboard. Just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, they did.
I was cold, wet and tired, but I did not want to die, I wanted to live with every sinew in my body, there was no way I was going to succumb to that angry ocean. Hundreds of miles away, the Royal Air Force, were doing their calculations, we’d drifted closer towards Ireland, and they formed an audacious plan. They scrambled a bright yellow Sea King rescue helicopter from RAF Brawdy in South Wales, they flew to Ireland, landed in Dublin, filled up their fuel tanks, then flew on to a lighthouse on the western edge of Ireland, they topped up their fuel tanks with a barrel and a hand pump, and then set off, out into the Atlantic Ocean on what was to become a six-hour operation. It was a record breaking rescue, the furthest a helicopter had ever been out to sea. They had ten minutes to get us off, and if they didn’t, they would run out of fuel to get back, and drop into the sea.
“Cometh the hour, cometh the man or women”, we are all tested in life. I remember a report on the TV about our rescue: “Coastguards described the men as calm and cheerful…. the boat was lashed by gale force winds, and it was only the pairs valiant efforts that kept it afloat”.
We often don’t realise quite how precious our lives are, until something happens that makes us wake up, so that we can ensure we make the most of them. If you’ve found yourself drifting, not valuing each day, don’t wait for something bad to happen, but wake up now, remember life is not a rehearsal, it is happening here and now, your mission is to make the most of it, and feel as alive and energised and excited as you possibly can.
Live your dreams, don’t let them die inside you.
YOLO is a term often used by younger people, usually as a rationale for impulsive or reckless behaviour. YOLO stands for “you only live once”. Whether that is a true statement or not, will remain a mystery for all of us, until we die. Whilst doing something stupid on the basis of YOLO probably isn’t a good idea, but you have to admit that that the young people who use this phrase, are 100% right in suggesting that we all need to make the most of our lives, but the honest truth is that most of us don’t.
Many people live in the past either resting on their laurels of past achievements, glories and good times, or dream of the future of all the things they want to do and of good times to come. We all in one way or another buy into a life of slavery that we work hard towards a great retirement, or something good to come in the future, and there is nothing wrong with this, it’s good to dream and plan ahead, but sometimes we forget to really live our lives today and make the most of the moment, to really Carpe Diem – seize the day.
Life can confuse us; it’s got so complex, our heads are full of all the things we want to do, need to do and absolutely have to do. There seems like there are continual demands on our time at work, and out of work, and we are always being interrupted, bombarded with messages, others trying to get our attention, usually to sell us something or other, or simply to entertain us, and occupy our time. If there were three words that described most people’s lives, it would probably be “busy, busy, busy”. With that busyness, comes pressure, stress and overwhelm, we are so busy living our lives, and working away, we often can’t see the wood for the trees, we become detached from our life journey as a whole, which makes us drift through big chunks of our lives.
Your bank account of time
When we are born, with arrive with a bank account that we can’t see, and it contains no money, it’s a bank account of time. None of us know exactly how long we have got to live; we don’t know if we will be struck by lightning, have a meteor land on our house, have an accident, be struck down by an illness, blown up by a terrorist, or whether we will live to 100 or more.
Every day, we all go to our bank account of time and make a withdrawal. We all get the choice to blow it and waste it, or to spend it wisely. We can’t save it, when a day is gone, it is gone, and there is one less day left in our life. What we sometimes fail to realise, is that it is possible to reduce the balance of time left in our bank account of time, by the choices we make, like smoking, drinking to excess, being overweight, living an unhealthy lifestyle etc. It is possible therefore to spend more than a day at a time.
Whilst none of us know for sure how much time we have in our bank account of time, but we can make some guesses based on logical assumptions. There are statistics on life expectancy by nationality and gender produced by the world health organisation, which is available on the internet, with Japan topping the list at the time of writing this book with the average age women live to being 87 and men 80, with the lowest being Sierra Leone, where the life expectancy for men and women is just 46. These are of course averages, many people will live much longer and others will have much shorter lives, but it is a guideline. You can look at your parents and grandparents to see what age they live to, as an indication of whether you come from a long living family or not. You can make your own assumptions about how your lifestyle and current health, might impact your life expectancy.
Sometimes we look back with regret, of all the things we didn’t do, the bad decisions we made, the time that we wasted. Hindsight is a strange thing, it can depress you and frustrate you, but it can also make you learn, and make you stronger, there is no point beating yourself up with regrets, its gone, so let it go and live for today. We can all only live in the present, but our future matters, and to make our future better than our past, we need to develop foresight; the ability to dream, to imagine, to anticipate and ultimately to set goals and objectives, and strategies that will increase the chance of leading us to everything that we want and need.
I believe we need to make the most of our lives; and to do that, we need to think about what making the most of our lives actually means, and how we can make decisions and take actions, that will enable us to do it. Whilst we are all subject to circumstances and events beyond our control, that impact our lives, we don’t have to rely on luck for good fortune. We can take control of our lives; the way we see things, think and act, can have a profound impact, on both the quality of our lives, and also the lifestyle that we are able to achieve.
Often it takes something bad happening, like an accident, an illness, a terrorist attack, a natural disaster, a close shave with death, or the loss of someone close, that makes us wake up and consider all aspects of our lives.
It is remarkably easy to drift through life, without considering it as a whole, and rather than make the most of it, to do the exact opposite and waste it. Don’t let that be you.
Today can be one of the most significant days in your life, a turning point towards a better future, where you feel more alive, more energised, more excited and more enthusiastic about everything. Today can be the day when you take control, and set out to achieve the life and career of your wildest dreams, and deepest desires.
Today is the day that you can start to remove all the bad things in your life, like worry, pressure, stress, frustration, financial hardship, depression and lack of anything, love, money, friendship, you name it, anything at all that troubles you, irritates you, or causes you pain. You can start to move away from everything that you don’t want or need in your life, and start to move towards everything that you do want and need.
To start with, the only thing you need to believe is that it is possible that you can influence the outcomes in your life, by the way you see things, the way you think and what you think, and the things that you do. If you don’t believe these things, there is little hope for you.
Your life ledger – the account of your life
If every day you get to spend a day of your life, your life ledger is a record of how you spend that time.
“Fire, fire, fire, wake up, wake up, the bells were ringing”. It was 1981, and I was at Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth on the South Coast of the UK, which is where the Royal Navy train their officers. I was in a big dormitory, which was shared by 12 or 14 of us. As I woke up, I became aware the room was full of smoke, hazy rather than dense, but it was enough to make you cough. The Royal Navy used to train some people from foreign navies, at the time they had some people there from Libya, who’d just been kicked out, and as retribution they had set about trying to burn the college down, setting fire to the notice board outside our dormitory as part of their arson efforts. Night time security discovered what they had done very quickly, the fires were put out relatively easily, and the damage was minimal.
I’ve often heard experts talking about the importance of smoke detectors; but until that point, I’d always imagined if you were asleep and there was smoke, you’d detect it and wake up, but none of us in that dormitory did wake up as a result of the smoke.
It struck me in the same way, that it is easy to think that you won’t waste your life, by letting it pass by, being metaphorically rather than physically asleep.
To me it is a reminder that we need to wake up and smell the coffee, and not let our lives drift by without making the most of them and focussing on what is really important.
Make the Most of Each Day
You can only live your life one day at a time, don’t live in the past, don’t drift through life and waste it, dare to dream, plan for the future, become the writer of your own life story, but make sure you live for today, make each day count. Focus on happiness and fulfilment and making a difference as your priority, make achieving the career success you desire and meeting all your financial needs and desires a by-product of that, not a goal in itself.
I’m well into my new book “Career and Life Game Change – Change the way you live your life and manage your career forever.”
Please email me email@example.com if you’d like to review the book before it is published or be told when the book becomes available. I’d love to hear from you.
Jonathan Blain (Tel +44 (0)787 33 33 0 33)