Since beginning the Off the Ropes podcast in March, I have interviewed 40 of the world’s most accomplished, inspiring, pioneering & adventurous individuals. Guinness World Record holders, world champions, ‘best in show’ type performers and all round remarkable superstars! Splendid, tremendous, fearsome, courageous, world class? Yes; 1000%. Super-human? No. None of the guests interviewed for the show are superhuman, not even champion free-diver Herbert Nitsch. Nope, holding your breath for over 9 minutes, 252m in the deep blue does not a super-human make.
Before speaking with Herbert, I was incredibly nervous. Not only because I was very much a podcast pup with a penchant for stuttering my questions (actually, I still do this), but also because I couldn’t comprehend how an ordinary man could achieve such a phenomenal feat. It was so utterly unrelatable and beyond the realms of possibility. How can anyone with human form hold their breath for almost ten minutes? This Herbert fellow must have the lungs of a sperm whale. Or so I thought.
If I’d worried about Herbert Nitsch being super-human, I had pre-interview plops before speaking with the God-like and other-worldy, ‘Iceman’ Wim Hof. The holder of 26 (and counting rapidly) Guinness World Records for death-defying feats such as withstanding the longest ice-bath for almost two hours (I manage three minutes in a lukewarm shower!); climbing Everest in just his shorts and without oxygen, and running the Namibian desert marathon without water. He sounded super, super-human!
However, as is always the case with people we pop on pedestals and revere, 60 minutes spent talking with Herbert and Wim, and all the other high-achieving podcast guests made me realise they are all as fallible as you and me. As vulnerable, imperfect, and, well, as human as can be.
I learned they are not super-humans, nor genetic mutants more physically capable than we are of achieving astonishing goals. Yet, their insatiable determination; their unending quest for purpose, resolution and achievement, and an unwillingness to accept their lot or be limited by their situation, sets them apart. You could row 9000 miles across the Pacific, like Natalia Cohen; cycle around the world, like James Ketchell; be the fastest person to scale the 7 Summits, like Colin O’Brady; swim around Britain, like Sean Conway; or skate-board across Australia, like Dave Cornthwaite. You couldn’t do these things tomorrow morning, but you are as capable as they are. We all are.
If you’ve listened to an episode of Off the Ropes and thought, ‘Pah, alright for him/her. I’d never be able to do that’, then I urge you to reconsider. Although some of the guests and their stories seem inaccessible – especially as they’re told within sixty minutes, perhaps leaving you with the impression that some of the guests just woke up one morning and decided to run around the world – their advice for living optimally shouldn’t be unreachable or elitist, even if some have had their adventures funded by wealthy parents or the income from a second-home. Wealthy and privileged, or not, it still takes phenomenal determination to climb the world’s tallest mountains or run across a continent. Although, I appreciate those types of journeys are probably made more comfortable by not having to wear your black PE pumps or sleep in a Walmart zero tog sleeping-bag.
‘Attitude’ is what differentiates our guests from ‘ordinary’ folk. Those who take a shitty situation and, instead of wallowing in the muck, or becoming its victim, they shine the smallest of light at something in the distance; a goal to head towards. And when they reach that goal, no matter whether the journey was arduous, lonely and almost soul-destroying, they keep shining their torch on what’s ahead, and they keep going. Simple, but far, far from easy. They are not super-humans, they simply go to places most of us would rather avoid. Repeatedly. But the rewards for doing so are plentiful: success, fulfilment, accolade, achievement and a huge jab in the arm of personal pride.
So, strap on your head torch and get on your way. Pop our podcast in your ears and don’t be intimidated by the words of our super high-achieving guests. Like you and me, they hurt, cry and worry; experience fear and anxiety, and probably flick the finger at the bloke cutting them up on the motorway. Not super-human, just human. Awesome, epic and mouth-agape inducing, but human. Just like you!
To hear how some of our not so super-human podcast guests overcame life’s difficulties and found happiness and success, listen-in to the Off the Ropes podcast every Friday night at 8pm (GMT).