ADVERSITY: a state or instance of serious or continued difficulty or misfortune. -Merriam Webster Dictionary
The dull pain in my left quadricep muscle transformed into a sharp stabbing sensation, that got worse with each step I took. The past three years of preparation, hard work, sacrifice, and dedication to complete this world-first, 2000-kilometre in 12-day Ultimate Triathlon flickered through my mind, as if it were a highlight reel of something that had already ended.
I still had 400 kilometres to cover along the south of France, with four days to remain to hit my 12-day target of this swim, cycle, and run that started with me swimming across Gibraltar straight between Spain and Morocco.
Having already completed the 25-kilometre swim, cycled the entire length of the
southeastern Spanish coastline; now after running several hundred kilometres in
just a few days, my body was starting to break down, with my finishing line still out
Did this mean the end of the project?
Was my recording-breaking Ultimate Triathlon attempt going to be a failure? How will I cover 400 kilometres in just four days, if I’m barely able to walk? As these questions swirled around my head, mixing with many other unhelpful thoughts to create a potent cocktail of negativity, I remembered my friend K.E.N is an expert in overcoming adversity. We all are faced with adversity throughout our daily lives. The severity of this adversity is subjective to us all as individuals. What we have overcome in our pasts, and what we regularly expose ourselves to throughout our lives will determine the level of adversity we face each day.
The bottom line though, adversity is adversity, no matter how big or how small. It’s an unseen force which pushes & pulls us away from what we are trying to achieve. An outcome that derails our most well-intentioned, prepared-for, or important plans.
It’s not the adversity itself which inhibits us from progressing closer to a goal, or shifting direction to aim for a new target. How do you react to this less-than-ideal situation, scenario or outcome that has restricted your progress will define the end of your stories narrative which has yet been written.
So how come some people are more affected by adversity, which can halt their momentum in a heartbeat, while others allow this misfortune to seamlessly move straight past them, without even blinking any eye? Through my experience as an ultra-endurance athlete, having taken on some of the world’s toughest (and craziest) swim, cycle, and running adventures; it’s having a process to follow which allows me to stay focussed on my overall goal.
K.E.N has helped me through several ‘tricky’ times on my adventures around the world. Especially while running through a tropical forest in China, without any food, water, money, or phone, and not speaking the language, but that’s a whole other story…
K.E.N provides support, and a focus for our thoughts. A direction for our actions, while
not allowing the adversity we face to dictate the very same thoughts & actions we
try to use, which helps us move past the obstacle that has been placed in our way.
So, who is K.E.N?
K = Key Fundamentals
E = Efficiency
N = New Normal
Time and time again, whenever I’m staring down the barrel of yet another setback, or adversity has halted my progress toward a goal I’m aiming for (whether this is during a physical adventure, running my company, or in everyday life) K.E.N has allowed me to progress, by applying its three elements.
When adversity strikes, you must identify the key fundamentals you need to take care of, in order to ‘keep the dream alive.’ My most basic example is this. If you are ill, the key fundamentals for your survival are to rest, drink water, eat food, and sleep. (After receiving a diagnosis.)
Focus on these key fundamentals, over time, it’s highly likely you’ll recover.
Once you have identified the key fundamentals on which you will focus, you now need to find ways to be efficient in how you use your energy, resources, time, money etc. This will help keep you afloat, upright, or even moving forwards. Using the example of being ill, ordering your groceries to be delivered to your front door, calling friends to drop off some warm soup, setting alarms & timers to remind you to eat, drink water, and even take naps throughout the day, are all ways to help you be efficient at your key fundamentals.
Even encouraging yourself to binge-watch something on Netflix, so you actually
rest can be helpful. Making things as simple & seamless as possible to help aid your recovery, is being efficient with your time, energy, and resources.
Accepting that the situation you are in, or the scenario that’s played out in front of
you is not going to change is a great place to start. As the old saying goes “there is
no point crying over spilt milk.” This is something to think about when accepting
your new normal. Feel your disappointment momentarily, then become comfortable with this new situation/position you are in. Just because you want it to change, doesn’t mean it
When you're ill, you can get mad or annoyed that you are going to miss a friend’s
birthday party you really wanted to attend. However, using your limited amount of
energy being frustrated and upset for a prolonged period of time, is only going to
make you feel worse.
Accept the situation you are in, and allow yourself to acknowledge that this is your
new normal. The Ultimate Triathlon was over three years in the making, and I was now unable to
run, and could barely walk. With still over 400 kilometres to reach my finishing line in Monaco, and hobbling along the south of France; this swim, cycle, and run from Morocco to Monaco
(from the outside) started to look like it was over.
It was clear I was unable to run the 400 kilometres to Monaco, so I decided I would try to cycle - using only one leg to push down on the pedal and propel myself towards my finishing line. I knew this was the exact scenario where I could call on my friend K.E.N, to help me overcome this (painful) setback.
Here’s how I applied K.E.N to help me cycle (with one leg) from where I was, and to my finishing line in Monaco.
Identifying the key fundamentals you need to do (not simply want to do) during a time of adversity, or when facing a setback comes from being completely honest with yourself. Alongside understanding the primary mechanisms of what will help you achieve your goal, through applying these crucial actions.
This is simple when trying to cycle 400 kilometres over four days with just one leg.
Eat plenty of food, stay hydrated, get as much sleep as possible, and keep my
thoughts as positive (or Less Negative) as I can each day.
My crew and I created a regimented plan in order to make sure I’m efficient at these key fundamentals. Eat a big breakfast and drink a certain amount of liquid before I started cycling each day. Briefly stop and eat every 90 minutes, while refilling drink bottles. I wrote words on my handlebars and hands to use as cues to help me stay positive. Once I completed the painful five hours of cycling each day, I would eat, drink, have a massage, then go to bed to sleep.
I had spent years creating & organising this challenge, and I truly cared about the outcome. I didn’t yell, blame anyone, or make a scene because my adventure was going to end, and not the way I intended. I accepted that this is my new normal, as my muscle was now torn, and I could do nothing to change what had already happened. I spoke to the pain in my quadricep, telling it I wasn’t going to fight it, gave it a name, and became comfortable with its presence.
When this didn’t work, I remembered the multiple deep-rooted ‘whys’ I had established for The Ultimate Triathlon, keeping these constantly at the forefront of my mind. After completing the K.E.N process, whether it took two minutes or two hours, I would repeat it over and over again until I finished each day.
Allowing K.E.N to guide me, ultimately gave me a focus which helped me reach Monaco after swimming, cycling and hobbling 2000 kilometres in just 12 days. K.E.N can be applied to any setback you face, the adversity you’re dealing with, or An obstacle which has appeared out of nowhere.
It’s one thing to know what makes K.E.N such a great friend, however, for K.E.N to actually, help you, you must help yourself by applying the three elements with discipline.
Knowledge is powerful, only if you understand it, and actually use it!