Develop and Deploy

Well, I survived. No, it wasn’t anywhere near as physically demanding as last year’s adventure in the highlands of Scotland but it was not easy either. I should have guessed by the slogan on the website ‘Develop and Deploy’. I am fascinated by so many military things but when it comes to actual deployment, I find myself wondering what on earth I was thinking! I had to constantly remind myself, ‘It’s not meant to be easy. No pain, no gain’ and all of that.

James Ray, the hugely likeable, charismatic but also naturally contemplative leader and founder of 4MUK– the organisation that organises these Extreme Character Challenges in the UK called it a “self facilitating journey”.

In other words, this was going to be a classic case of “however much you invest in the process, you will reap a huge personal dividend.”

As with before however, I can in all integrity, only reveal snippets of the experience as one of the primary drivers of all XCC experiences is the element of surprise and how you as the individual deal with that challenge that is suddenly looming in front of you.

I prepared as meticulously as I knew how and was feeling very high levels of excitement and anticipation all the way to Liverpool Street Station. After a couple of cryptic clues to oil the wheels of wonder and intrigue still further, we were finally given a platform number and six minutes to get on the train.

Despite my preparations however, a great deal of this went out of the proverbial window after the first RV point. I can’t exactly tell you why but suffice it to say, when I look back, a lot of life simply does not pan out the way we planned does it?

The question then becomes, ‘What are you going to do about it, and how can you work towards turning it around as a positive?’

As ever, there was a lot of walking but this time, it was mostly warm and sunny – always my preference – in contrast to freezing fog, wind and rain.

There was however, plenty of water involved and surprisingly, I loved every minute of it! Many of you will have hopefully read my blog about what it felt like to complete the Blenheim triathlon and how much pain that put me through. My attitude towards swimming has never been the same since and this held me in good stead over the course of this leadership challenge, put it that way.

Another obstacle that I think I can reveal to you was a herd of steers who didn’t take too kindly to our gang of five ushering them away from the gate we needed to access. Our elder statesman, Geoff (see below) took charge at this point and bravely came through the gate last and survived.

Along the way, we shared stories of our lives and the journey we have been on until this point. In the midst of the struggles and potential sources of stress, this is the ultimate leveller and instigator of true camaraderie, heart to heart intimacy and is always my favourite element of experiences like this.

In our group alone, we had a man who had raised £20,000 for international charities on two different occasions and is now energetically raising money for a defibrillator to be installed outside their local convenience store.

Another guy who survived being blown up in his military truck that landed nose down in the road and lost none of the men under his command. His latest mission is to help rescue 1000 addicts off the streets of Brighton.

Someone else who left their native country because some bad people were potentially coming after his Dad and therefore him also.

I could say more but that would involve revealing things that are not so obviously anonymous.

What I will say is we all went in at the deep end, shared our hearts as well as our hurts, and this always helps the next man to step up and be honest and vulnerable.

Finally, we stood in a circle of five and stepped into a metaphorical but equally, very real arena where we declared our dreams, plans and intentions going forwards and why they mean so much to us. Our small band of brothers then challenged us, forcing the questions that we often refuse to ask ourselves.

‘Why do you want it? How much are you willing to give? Tell us the plan and when you are going to deliver it? Is that realistic? Who else is going to help you?’

With barriers broken down by all that had taken place before, these men were driving each other deeper still, towards the destination that lies inside the heart of every man if he has the courage to confess it and dare to be challenged.

Develop and Deploy‘ is the headline for this experience and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who like me, needs that push to go further and for longer.

When You Need a Hand…

I am alive! It’s been a good few weeks (ten to be precise) since you last heard from me and I am sorry for that gap.

I was having major problems with my website as well as the connection it has with the platform that sends these emails out.

The good news is that this has now been fully resolved!

You can even visit the new website now if you like and feel free to tell me what you think. I can’t promise to implement any changes you may suggest as I rather like it a lot – after much deliberation and polishing.

I did a lot of the original layers myself and my wonderful daughter took all the profile shots of me (except for the one of me by the swimming pool!)

But then I hit a wall. A rather large wall or so it felt like to me

I tried one thing and then another to scale it but it just wouldn’t allow me to climb over.

I began asking around for any help but none was forthcoming.

I got desperate and asked a small group of people who had been coming to our house to attend The Marriage Course if they knew anyone who knew anything about WordPress websites. Lo and behold, one of the guys had a friend, and long story short, that friend then introduced me to someone who specialised in exactly what I needed.

His name is James and he has been simply brilliant! He was at once, able to sort out the technical mess I found myself in and helped me get over that seemingly insurmountable wall that was threatening to defeat me.

So, I am very happy and I was reminded the other week of how much difference it makes when someone gives you a hand. My wife and I were in the supermarket and looking for something (I honestly can’t remember what it was now) like a packet of our favourite nuts or something similar.

We couldn’t see them anywhere – the top shelf where they were normally displayed was empty. Just as we were about to give up, a fellow shopper came alongside – a very tall woman – and realised we were looking for the same thing as her. She was able to see that in fact, the nuts were on the top shelf but some considerable distance away from the front and therefore out of our sight.

She then did something I’ve never seen before…

It wasn’t that spectacular but it was worth remembering.

She pulled the shelving display – one of those built-in metal contraptions, not a mere cardboard box, just so you know – and dragged it forwards to the front of the shelf itself. Suddenly, the nuts were in clear view and even we could reach them!

A trivial example perhaps but between James, the extremely helpful web developer and the tall female shopper, I have been reminded once again, that it is a wonderful thing to help and be helped.

 

Let the Expert Through!

Several years ago, when I was working as a salesman for a company that supplied food wrapping machinery, I found myself in a large produce processing factory with an engineer called Billy. I was there to see how their current stock of machines were doing and explore the possibility of selling them one or two new ones. Billy was there as our referral agent but also on that day, to urgently repair one of the older machines that had broken down.
A55 wrapperNow most people don’t get to see what it is like inside any kind of food processing factory but from experience, I can tell you they are extremely busy places. The sheer volume of product that comes down the highly automated lines is mesmerising in itself. So you can imagine, when a machine suddenly stops working, the line it was stationed on immediately becomes very clogged indeed with product that would normally be flowing at the rate of anything from 50-120 items a minute!

 

I will never forget the relative calm that Billy examined the machine and then looked inside his tool bag. I seem to remember that one of his bags was in fact, an old briefcase with a sealed compartment where he stored amassive variety of nuts and bolts and all kinds of fixings, gubbings and all the other technical terms for things that make bigger things work. Inside this compartment, there was literally a sea of stuff that was so deep, half his hand disappeared into them as he searched for an identical screw from the one that had worked itself loose from the machine in question.

DN7M5P Shine of coin ina sea of old screws

“I know it’s in ‘ere somewhere,” he muttered in his raw, “Lancashire,
God’s own county” accent. I had absolute confidence in his ability to
fix the machine amid the increasing clamour around for us for the
resurrection of the line but how on earth would he find that single
screw? A few seconds later, I was open-mouthed in amazement as he pulled the screw out of the sea of seeming infinity. A few minutes after that, the entire line was up and running and everyone was happy.

I don’t think we ever did sell them a new machine. The reason? The
sheer expertise and technical genius of Billy from Lancashire
to regularly resurrect their machines from the dead of course.

 

Then, just the other day, I needed some help from a client actually, to help me to retrieve a really important folder that had seemingly disappeared from my USB stick. We ended up talking on the phone as he was driving (hands free of course!) and the route he took me around the laptop to run some initial tests would have had me more lost than ever if I’d attempted to do this alone. The fact that he was doing this without even seeing the screen in front of him was impressing me with every minute that went by.

computer-engineer-e1428561170306
The time came to try and locate the folder in another part of the computer and then fully retrieve it to its original location and
there it was! A quick check in with one or two of the files that I had found earlier but were strangely empty and sure enough, the
content was restored. “Thank you Daniel, you’re a genius!” came the very relieved and grateful response down the line.

We all love it of course don’t we, when someone who really knows what
they’re doing is able to literally lift us out of our apparently helpless,
hopeless pit of frustration. That is true value in action right there.

So, when was the last time someone came along and did that for you?

Or more importantly, when was the last time you were able to do something for someone else?

What is your expertise, your natural ability that can always help another human being?

It may have nothing to do with your business or job – it’s just something you can do, whenever the need arises.

I was with someone this week who needs my help and guess what I’m going to do?

If it wasn’t for Daniel this week and his genius reminding me of that epic feat of mechanical resurrection performed by Billy from Lancashire, perhaps I may not have been so willing to get involved on an ongoing basis. As long as it doesn’t involve fixing any kind of machine or remotely trouble-shooting a computer, I’ll be fine!