Behind my Guinness World Record: Taking Risks Out of the Box!
As we flip our calendars for the last time this year and ponder how December crept up on us so quickly, it’s funny to think how much time has passed, and how much has changed since that fateful afternoon in Central Park with my dear brother Colin.
One would think we were absurd for embarking on a costly and dangerous motorcycle ride that circumvented the Middle Kingdom, quite possibly the last thing anyone would think to discuss at an afternoon sibling catch-up after the Lehman Brothers crash of 2008. Colin may have been comfortable from the sale of his company, but as a freelance photographer I was beginning to see my income dip as publishing houses were taking a major hit.
How exactly does one go from discussing our losses to planning a life-changing (and record-breaking I might add) motorcycle pilgrimage on the other side of the globe?
It was a huge risk with plenty of margin for mistakes and errors. We were talking thousands and thousands of kilometers, multiple different permits, different weather climates - the list of things to consider and those that could go wrong were endless. But this is where my number one rule comes into play.
Trust Your Instincts
I have spent 8 years working in the Far East, traveling most of Asia out of my new home in Shanghai. Despite this, a cross-country trip around China is still a costly gamble that not many companies were willing to sponsor. Every door I knocked on liked the prospects of my idea, but was not willing to take the leap. I refused to give up on the project as I was passionately drawn to it. Plus, Colin was going to take a year off to be my compadre for the journey.
After numerous rejections, I knew I had to take on this project alone. Somehow, I felt confident that it would sell itself at the end of the day, purely on the magnificence of it all. It was certainly a huge risk, considering the bikes alone were almost USD$70,000, but I knew that it would pay off eventually.
If there’s one thing that I learnt from this experience, it’s to listen to your intuition, and trust both your innate and acquired expertise. If you take a properly calculated risk, it may ultimately come to fruition.
Take Mistakes in Your Stride
With every risk you take, there is bound to be consequences that you could have never expected. Twists and turns along your journey might throw you off your original path, but keep this in mind: everything happens for a reason.
We had successive obstacles on our trip across The Middle Kingdom, from being stuck in traffic at the start of the trip and not meeting our pre-planned goals, to simple automotive problems and even some passport problems here and there.
No matter the risk you take, learn to enjoy the journey rather than focus on the destination. When our accompanying SUV broke down and Chad had to wait for his passport, Colin and I continued to ride into the sunset, spending a day on our own in Dandong.
We took the hiccups in our stride, and actually got quite a remarkable day in Dandong peeking at the North Korean border, riding amidst beautiful mountains and playing a spot of golf.
When taking any risk, always take the time to properly dissect and pre-empt any problems you might face. But when new obstacles come in your way, pause to process it, and move forward with baby steps. Remember, it’s not the end of the world!
Stand Up for Something
There were numerous occasions when the team felt challenged, perhaps maybe even in danger, as we took our trip across China. But when you have to take a gamble and think out of the box, does it play well in the bigger picture? Does your risk and payoff benefit everyone in your team, and does it truly support what you stand for?
When we got drenched and were refused shelter in military restricted Jingyu, we stood our ground because we knew that we posed no threat to them, but going back out in the torrential rain could be disastrous for us.
When three armed military guards with AK-47s confronted us on the Highway S303, I knew I had to keep my cool to keep the team (and Chad in particular) safe. God knows the fear he must have felt hiding with his camera atop the mountain, not knowing the fate of our team, if and when we could even return to save him from his hiding spot in the first place.
But this spectacular route - meandering the borders of China and Mongolia - was one that I could not let my brother ride through. I couldn’t risk getting the team in trouble when over-eager and protective military personnel spots Chad with complete camera gear in a restricted area.
The route may have been tough, but it taught me something really valuable. True enough as they say: where there’s a will, there’s a way. On an individual level, you must be willing to think out of the box while understanding all aspects of the risk at hand. If anything, my 8 years in China, along with my fun-packed trips across China and India have taught me one this -
Great leadership encourages people to dream and push for boundless goals, even with the risks at hand.