Are one’s failures the reason for one’s success? What do you do when all that you have prepared for suddenly disappears? What if you need a 180-degree turn from all your plans? This is what happened to alumnus Alan Lock when he unexpectedly lost his sight due to macular degeneration. He knew his military career was over. What he didn’t realize was how many adventures were about to begin.
In the last episode from The Crossroad Series, Alan tells us about how he took control of his life by setting four extreme goals: to run the Marathon Des Sables, to row the Atlantic Ocean, to ski to the South Pole, and to swim the English Channel. Highly ambitious, right? I’m sure you’re wondering, did he complete all four challenges? Well, if you want to know the answer, you’re going to have to read this article until the end.
But what are Alan’s life and success trying to teach our listeners? Here are the three life lessons you can learn from his experience:
Setbacks are Set-ups and Step-ups
As we go through setbacks, it is easy to get immersed in our grief and problems. That is until we realize the opportunities it offers. Alan encouraged us to see hiccups as opportunities to do things that we wouldn’t have before. In his case, these misfortunes pushed him to achieve more than he imagined.
“But at this point, I thought, you know what, I suppose I’m trying to prove something to myself. I think I felt that by doing that, I just wanted to give myself the springboard for the rest of my life.
If I could have my sight, I’m going to have this completely different career. I’d love to be able to just do basic things, like ride a bike and read a book again. Having had that experience quite early in my life, it was almost slightly hyperbolic. I guess the worst thing that could have happened has happened. So at that point, a lot of the fear and apprehension fell away.”
Take Things One Step at a Time
When he crossed the Atlantic Ocean, he needed to travel thousands of miles. And, even after sailing for weeks, he’s still miles away from his destination. Rather than being deterred by this enormous task, he divided it up into smaller steps. That’s where the concept of eating an elephant comes from.
“And so day by day. I know that if I can just mentally, just take it a day at a time. Which again is an overused phrase, but it’s really true. Then eventually, all these days are going to add up, and I’ll get to the other end.”
Fail Forward and Persevere
You will not know if one thing will work or not unless you try. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Once you’ve encountered a setback, do not let it stop you. And this is true for Alan’s story. He continued with his course in the Royal Navy even when he can’t see. He took an MBA even if he had to rely on someone to be his eyes for the admission test. He didn’t stop at running 151 miles in the Sahara. Even the cold of the Antarctic didn’t stop him. Most times, we measure ourselves against our peers without realizing that each one has unique journeys. Measuring yourself against someone else’s experience will keep you caged on someone else’s experience. He even applies this mentality at work.
“And actually, the one thing I did have from both my sight loss and from doing these various challenges was that there’s always a way to overcome a problem. If you can be sort of tenacious enough and actually just be quite action-oriented. So let’s just make things happen. Let’s go out. Let’s try new things. If it’s going to fail, it’s going to fail. First, let’s not sit around in endless meetings and plan for something that we know we ultimately don’t take action on.”
Alan’s life is a testimony of finding adventures in setbacks. Losing his sight could have meant losing his life, but he leveraged this to achieve things like finishing a degree that requires studying models and engineering concepts, which he did even when he can’t see it. He ran a 151-mile marathon. He crossed the Atlantic Ocean. He skids across the Antarctic. He almost did cross the English channel if not for the bad weather. Alan still hopes to be able to achieve that one day. For now, check the work he’s doing at Icarus Originals and BlowLeaf! Want to know how Alan achieved all these? Listen to the full podcast episode at Haas Podcasts.