My ambitions. My ideas.

In order to raise £1 million I am going to have to diversify my activities.  Running one half marathon won’t get me there I don’t think.  Nor will running a couple.  I need to take on every possible opportunity that I get and learn how to promote them successfully.  That means giving myself more work, but I kind of accepted that when I started this whole thing anyway.

I’ve had so many ideas of different events to take part in and to run.  One of them which is quite high up on my list of which will require a lot of organising is a charity ceilidh/auction night.  Ultimately it has to make sense financially, I don’t see any point pouring vast amounts of time into organising an event like this unless it is going to raise a significant amount of money for charity.  It will only raise a fraction of the total amount however every little helps!  I think it would be good way of bringing people together who have been affected by cancer, to celebrate what they have achieved and have a good old laugh.  For anyone who isn’t Scottish, a ‘Ceilidh’ is a traditional gathering where people join together in song and dance in order to have fun and make a fool out of themselves, at least that is how it was described to me!  If it happens you should come, they are always great fun and everyone usually has a great time!  I’ll keep you posted!

Another idea of mine that I am working towards is starting to make videos that document this journey.  I know that I have started this blog, but I understand that not everyone enjoys reading.  I also believe that a picture paints a thousand words and using video will allow me to physically show you all what I have been up to.  Over the past year I have begun watching YouTube more and more, to the point where I often watch YouTube over regular TV.  There are some amazing creators on YouTube who produce work that is as good, if not better than TV.  I am by no means saying that my videos will be able to compare to some of these creators, but I hope to bring you all along and help share this whole experience more.

I am finding that this whole blog and charity work pretty fun so far!  It has been a lot of work, trying to get things started, to speak to people about what I’m trying to do and why.  I’ve come to realise that when you tell someone that you are trying to raise £1 million for charity they will be slightly surprised.  I suppose it’s not the average target to set.  Although if everyone was the same the world would be a pretty boring place I think!  People often take a bit of convincing, but I think I am being fairly successful at encouraging people we will get there.  We are still quite small at the minute and there is a huge amount of work still to do, but I have faith and there is plenty positivity in me still!

Christmas will soon be upon us and the New Year hotly on its heels.  I think that once the 1st of January arrives that I will feel that we are on our way.  I’ve been working on this for a couple of months now and I think it looks like we haven’t made much progress.  What I am trying to remind people however is that I could never expect to raise this money overnight, it’s a long-term goal and one that will take time to achieve.  Stick with me and we’ll smash the target, I’m sure of it!

My sister is home in a couple of weeks for the first time since August which I am quite looking forward to.  She is studying for a Masters in Interpreting and Translation in French and Spanish and has spent this semester in Lyon, France.  I haven’t had the opportunity to go out and visit Lyon unfortunately which is something that I did want to do.  Maybe in the future, it’s another place to add to my long list of places that I would like to visit.  She’ll be home a few days before Christmas and will be home until mid January I think before she moves to Madrid, Spain for her second semester.  The life of a university student!  I definitely want to visit Madrid though and I have a block of annual leave in February so hopefully I will get some free digs for a week.

Unfortunately, my annual leave for April onwards won’t be released until January at the earliest and at the minute I haven’t booked my Kilimanjaro trip or put my John O’Groats to Lands End cycle firmly in the diary (these being the two biggest undertakings).  There is a trip to Kilimanjaro that I have my eyes on and I am tempted to book it and take a gamble.  Worst case scenario is that I have to try and move my annual leave or swap my shifts with colleagues which can be done, it’s just an extra thing to think about!  I think I am going to have to make a decision soon however, places are limited and I want to ensure that I definitely get to go and climb this mountain.  In terms of travel vaccines I am lucky that through my work with the International Search and Rescue team I am vaccinated to travel pretty much anywhere in the world.  Although I am due a couple of boosters which I will have to get sorted out soon!  Needles are my arch nemesis, but sometimes you’ve got to do things you hate in order to have the experiences that you want most.

I will let you know as soon as the dates are firm and the trips are organised!

“When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favour” – Elon Musk

If you haven’t already, please donate today.  Just follow the link:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/JED-SMITH1

J.

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What drives me?

I have spoken regularly in my previous blogs about having dreams, about not taking life for granted and about why I am doing this whole thing in the first place.

So in this piece I have decided to discuss what drives me.  What makes me tick?

A huge part of the motivation that I have had to do things and achieve stems purely from being successful and wanting to give something back.  Being told that you have done something well or winning a competition is an addictive feeling, at least it definitely is for me.  I have said before that I am an extremely competitive person, that is something which I will openly admit.  But I think being competitive is an important attribute to develop.  It gives you a determination to learn and hone skills and it encourages a will to succeed.  For me competition brings excitement as well as making me slightly nervous.  Why nervous?  I simply hate losing.  I think I am a good loser, but I still hate it.

I used to play the tuba in a number of successful different bands.  One of the most successful bands I played in was the Carnoustie and District Youth Brass Band or CDYBB.  CDYBB was made up of brass and percussion players from Carnoustie and the surrounding area.  From its formation the band was highly successful and won 1st place in the Scottish Youth Championships in its first outing.  The band went from strength to strength and quickly became regarded as one of the finest youth brass bands in Scotland.  We regularly gained first place in competitions and winning almost became the norm.  We were extremely well drilled and the attention to detail was very high.  I remember we travelled to Manchester to compete for the first time in the British Youth Brass Band Championships which were held at the Royal Northern College of Music.  The band went to Manchester undefeated from its inception and optimism was high for a good result.  In the end we placed fourth in our first British Championships.  Immediately after the result I was gutted.  We had only placed fourth!  It wasn’t until someone put it in perspective that I realised it really was a fantastic result.  It was our first ever time competing against the best bands in the UK and placing fourth out of a large field was actually far better than we should have ever expected.  We returned to Manchester year on year and in 2010 won the most prestigious section the ‘premier section’ and became the best youth brass band in the UK.  For me there is no greater feeling at the end of months of long, tedious and stressful practices than to pull of a near perfect performance and come away with a win.

I reckon I tasted success with the band more than in any other area of my life, but then again, it probably occupied the largest amount of my time!  Honestly, it proved that practice makes perfect!

But what drives me now?  Well for one I have a job that I enjoy, that gives me satisfaction and earns me some money.  Some people find it hard to comprehend but I genuinely enjoy going into work and seeing what the day will bring.  We all know each other pretty well and probably better than the average colleagues do.  But that’s part of why I like it and why I enjoy going into work.  It gives me the opportunity to travel and to enjoy so many amazing experiences.  It does not make me rich however and if that is what you want from life, firefighting is probably not for you.  You’ve got to love what you do and for me it makes being motivated easy.

I set goals.  Goal setting allows me to focus more and ensure that I keep working towards something.  If it’s just a thought I am far more likely to put it off or not do it at all.  The beauty of goal setting is that it takes no time at all and a pen and a piece of paper is pretty much all the equipment that you need.  Think of what you want to achieve, write it down, estimate how long it will take you, write that down and you are done.  But for me the most important part of goal setting is reviewing it.  Realising that you have achieved something is powerful and if you never look back at your goals you may never appreciate your own success.  Always review.  In fact make your list of goals so obvious to you every day that you can’t miss them.  Please don’t ever think it will be a quick process however, you have to have a determination to persevere until you succeed, I have found that out a number of times!  So many people with dreams and the potential to achieve them don’t, simply because they never stick with them.  So as ‘Dory’ always said “just keep swimming”.

“When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and you’re life is just to live your life inside the world.  Try not to bash into the walls too much.  Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money.  That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.” – Steve Jobs

Your ideas matter, your contribution matters.  You could change the world, just do it.

J.

Taking Life For Granted

On Sunday the 20th I experienced an extremely humbling moment.  I had spent the day with mum at the Gleneagles hotel enjoying afternoon tea.  Mum had asked if I would like to go and having never been I felt it was an experience I shouldn’t turn down. I would suggest that it is not my usual haunt, however the food was fantastic and the service impeccable.  I could not fault the afternoon.  Whilst it was a great afternoon I don’t think it will be a regular event in my diary, more a treat.

Myself and mum don’t often get the chance to go and do things together and the afternoon out to Gleneagles was a welcome one.  You see I think we all take life for granted.  We all too often fail to realise that it could all end in the blink of an eye.  Whilst I would hope that everyone lived long and prosperous lives it unfortunately doesn’t always work out like that.  For a huge part of my life I did just that.  I took life for granted.  I never truly appreciated what I had and how quickly it could all be lost.

When we returned home from Gleneagles I popped onto Facebook for my usual flick through.  I very quickly stumbled upon a post about a little 4 year old girl – Jessica Whelan, who had just passed away that morning from cancer.  I almost feel ashamed to say that I had never heard about Jessica who had been battling with cancer since September 2015.  I noticed an image of Jessica taken by her dad, writhing in pain because of her cancer.  No one should ever have to fight with cancer, let alone a little girl who never had the opportunity to truly experience life.  Cancer is cruel.  I don’t think I have ever believed it to be so true.

It brought the day I had had with mum right into context.  I realised just how lucky I am that I still have my mum around and that I still get to enjoy time with her.  Not just mum but all of my family members and friends who have battled with this disease.

I get frustrated with myself every now and then.  When I realise that I am slipping back into the comfort of pretending that we have endless time to enjoy life and experience the world.  There are so many things to do, so many places to see and yet we allow ourselves to become complacent and we constantly put our dreams on hold for one reason or another.  We put things off until another day.  I know that I have been more guilty of this than anyone.  But when cancer came calling so close to home it gave me the wake up call I needed.  Our time is limited and we must make the most of it.  We all have differing dreams and aspirations, we may not all agree to experience the same things, but what I think we should all agree upon is that life is short.  It can end quicker than we appreciate and we must make the most of the time that we have and live lives that end with no regrets.

For a long time travelling was something which I did, but I wasn’t overly bothered about.  As a kid I never travelled outside of the UK until I was about 12 when I went to France for the first time.  It wasn’t because my parents didn’t want to take us abroad they just couldn’t afford it at the time.  I’m not complaining though, I had so many opportunities through my childhood that helped turn me into the person I am today and I am extremely grateful for that.  But going to France and experiencing another culture was incredible.  I think I realised then how big the world was and how much places there were to visit and experience.  I am extremely fortunate that I have had the opportunity to visit Japan and the USA and to travel around Europe.  I am desperate to get my next adventure planned to visit somewhere new have a new experience.  New York and other cities in the US are pretty high on my list of places to visit as well Australia and New Zealand, Africa, Nepal and the list goes on and on!  Of course there are also so many more places in Scotland and the UK that I would  like to visit and experience and I will get the opportunity in time.  For me, an experience is worth a thousand possessions.

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“Life has no limitations except the ones you make” – Les Brown

This has been a fantastic experience so far.  I have learned a huge amount and spoken to so many people about why we need to do research and why we need to make sure that the funding exits for  the research to happen.  I started this whole thing because I wanted to help people who are suffering from cancer and prevent others from ever having to experience this disease.  But what I am realising, is that it is teaching me that I must make the most of the life that I have been given and take every experience and opportunity that are presented to me.  We must measure our lives by experiences and not by time alone.

Remember donating is super easy, you just have to follow the link below:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/JED-SMITH1

J.

Who am I?

Who am I?

I think I forgot that people may read this blog or follow my challenges who don’t know me and have never met me.

So, I guess it might be worth spending some time to let you all you know just that.

For those who don’t know, my name is Jed Smith.  I am a 23 year old from the east coast of Scotland.  I work full-time as a Firefighter with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in Dundee and I also work as an Urban Search and Rescue Technician on the UK International Search and Rescue Team.

I had what I would class as a fairly normal childhood growing up in a small seaside town attending the local primary and secondary schools.  When I was 7 years old, I convinced my parents to take me along to a fun day which was being organised by my local Boys Brigade company (I heard they had been quad biking which I thought was awesome!).  Having decided that the prospect of getting to go quad biking was high I asked my parents if I could go.  They agreed and I joined the Boys Brigade.  Needless to say, in the 10 years I spent in the Boys Brigade I never did go quad biking with them.  In hindsight I joined for completely the wrong reasons, it was purely to do one thing that I thought would be fun.  Whilst I never went quad biking I did get the opportunity to do far more than my 7 year old self had ever thought possible.  I made some exceptional friends and learned a huge amount about myself, about teamwork and about discipline.  I firmly believe that the Boys Brigade has had a huge impact on turning me into the person I am today and I think joining the Boys Brigade was the best decision 7 year old me could ever have made.  I left the Boys Brigade at the age of 17 having risen to the highest rank of Staff Sergeant and obtaining the highest award available, the ‘Queens Badge’.

Some people have told me its ‘just a badge’, but to me it has far more meaning.  To obtain the Queens Badge takes 2 long years of hard work and determination.  My company captain and his officers were all fantastic and wanted the best for everyone.  But they did not sign off on a Queens Badge lightly.  If you did not meet the criteria then they simply would not sign your application.  This is not to say that it was impossible to achieve but more to show if you put in the required work and met the standard you would be successful.  I have found this to be an incredibly important lesson in life.  It meant receiving the Queens Badge had far more meaning than exam results ever did.

Towards the end of primary school I began learning to play the Tuba.  Little did I know at the time that I would get to travel across the globe playing it or be a member of a number of very successful bands.  I suppose I was fairly good at it, but the people I played with were amazing and a lot of them are now music teachers and play in some of the best bands and orchestras in the world.   I was never that good! Playing the Tuba ended up occupying a huge amount of my time and once you added the Boys Brigade into the equation, the only free night I had through my teens was a Tuesday.  The Tuesday was often busy as well however going to competitions with the BB or another band practice.  I was certainly kept occupied so getting into trouble was well out of the equation, not that I was that kind of person anyway.  I became a member of the National Youth Brass Band of Scotland and went on a tour of Japan with them in 2008.  Who ever thought at 14 years of age I would be touring Japan.  I certainly didn’t.  If you have never been to Japan, go!  Its the most incredible country with amazing people.  I’d love to go back!

I was involved in number of different groups at school;  the F1 in schools challenge where you CAD (computer aided design) a wood car which was then manufactured using CNC (computer numerical controlled) router and raced at competitions.  On the back of a competition I had the opportunity to spend a week doing work experience with Jaguar at their manufacturing facility in Castle Bromwich, Birmingham.  This was an amazing opportunity for someone who has a massive interest in cars!  I also took part in the Duke of Edinburghs Award and obtained every level. Bronze, Silver and Gold.  The Duke of Edinburghs Award is the most fantastic scheme which introduced me to the mountains of Scotland and taught me more skills again, than I ever thought it would.

What I most definitely noticed throughout my youth, was that when you take opportunities that are presented to you and you work hard at them, success will find your way.

My fourth year standard grade results were good, but nothing incredible and my following higher results were average I would say.  Looking back, I could have done far better in my highers had I put in the effort.  I suppose they are my one regret from school.  I could have and probably should have achieved better grades than I did.

I left school having been elected as a School Captain and achieving a lot to begin my studies for a BA (Hons) in Management at the University of Abertay, Dundee.  Having studied for one year at Abertay I received an email to say my application to join Tayside Fire and Rescue had been successful and subject to a medical I would be offered a Firefighters post.  This has to be one of the best emails I have ever received.  Five weeks after receiving the email I had completed my first year exams and left Abertay, joining Tayside Fire and Rescue as a Trainee Firefighter on the 7th of May 2012 at the ripe old age of 18.

I attended the Scottish Fire Services College in Gullane, East Lothian and following a 13 week course I graduated as a Firefighter in development on the 24th of August 2012.  For anyone who notices that there are more than 13 weeks between those 2 dates we had a two weeks off in the middle as the college closed for its summer break!  Following another period of training upon returning from the college I joined my watch on the 16th of September 2012 (I have a strange ability to remember dates and number plates, I know its useless and bit strange, but it’s just something I do!).  I transferred on the 1st of April 2013 to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and on the 7th of May 2015 following three years of extensive training and folio work I qualified as a fully ‘Competent’ Firefighter.  In my time with the Fire Service I have also qualified as an ‘Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Technician’.  What does this involve? In its most simple sense it is the rescue of people from collapsed structures.  I am also a USAR Technician with the UK International Search and Rescue team who respond on behalf of the UK to disasters all over the world.  As yet I have not been deployed but there is every chance that I will in time.  The team is one of around 30 ‘Heavy USAR’ teams in the world who are officially classified by the United Nations.  At present their are 14 Firefighters from Scotland who contribute to the UK team.

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And now, well I am trying to raise £1 Million for Cancer Research UK because I am fed up seeing family and friends suffering from the disease.  It’s my new challenge, my largest goal, but one that I am confident I will achieve!

Should you want to know anymore just leave me a message!

If you would like to donate even a couple of pounds just follow the link below, its quick and easy!

“In order to succeed, we must first believe that we can” – Nikos Kazantzakis

J.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/JED-SMITH1

Positivity, Promotion and Perseverance

I have set myself an almighty challenge of raising £1 Million for Cancer Research UK.  In my last  blog post I discussed how, well an element of the how.

I am not particularly good at making ad hoc, unplanned decisions (especially with a project as large as this) and so I have done my best to try and set a plan or strategy that details how I aim to achieve my goal.  I mean I can make a quick decision about going to the pub or how I am going to make my cup of tea, but this project/challenge requires a vast amount of planning.

Goal setting is my thing, it gives purpose and drive to life.  When an objective is set, we can work towards it, adjusting our actions along the way in order to ensure final success.  I can’t function properly without objective setting.  It’s something I have done for a very long time without realising.

I am extremely fortunate that I was successful in lots of different things throughout my childhood and it moulded me into someone who is extremely competitive, who hates losing and doesn’t take failing well.  If I am on the losing side of my shifts Christmas quiz it frustrates me.  I will never profess to being great at everything, I know for a fact that there are lots of things I am terrible at.  But, the things which I am not good at are the things which I never planned out.

“Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance” – British Army

As time goes by I think I am beginning to understand the enormity of what we are trying to do.  But I am not deterred and, having read so many fantastically positive comments I am more motivated than ever to make sure this dream of helping Cancer Research UK becomes a reality.

I tried writing a number of possible plans, but none of them answered the significant question of ‘how’ definitively.  In doing this, I did notice that I seemed to reiterate the same three words over and over again.

Positivity, Promotion and Perseverance.

These three words summarise just what we need to do I think.  We must always remain positive that we will achieve the target.  There are amazing people who are dealing with Cancer who never let the disease affect their spirits.  So we should follow their incredible example.  If they can battle cancer with a positive can do attitude, we can raise all this money.

As for promotion – if no one knows about this campaign and all the various challenges that are going to be taking place how can we expect to achieve the target.  Where a positive opportunity for promotion exists we have to take it.  I want to get out and talk to people, talk about the disease and how it has affected myself and my family and I want to talk to people about why research is so important.

Finally perseverance.  Raising £1 Million will never happen overnight, unless your some sort of rich person with the moral conscience to donate it to such a cause.  Maintaining a dedication to positivity and promotion is the most critical part, I can never allow myself to get into a rut and give up on the target.  There is zero point in doing all of this otherwise.  I’ve got to raise this million pounds.

I have heard people say that we will never beat Cancer.  But I can’t agree with them.  It is only when we solely adopt this negative approach that we will never beat it.  We are beating Cancer, as every minute, hour and day go by, research is helping us get closer.  I do not know when that day may be.  But it will come, of that I am positive.

On the 4th of November I had a very positive and helpful meeting with my Station Manager.  We discussed a number of things about this challenge and just what I am trying to achieve.  But I think we can now begin promoting this challenge and engaging with more people.  I have spent months agonising over all the different aspects of this challenge and to finally get the green light from my work feels like a very significant step in the right direction.

Letters and emails need to be compiled and my strategy finalised.  But we are now in the position to start making some real progress.  We can start the true fundraising and spreading the positive message to those who are suffering from the disease.

I am learning a lot as I do this and I am finding that raising money for charity does so many things for you as an individual.  It has to be one of the most underrated things in this world.

If you want to develop yourself, raise some money for charity.

J.

How are we going to do this?

SO, how are we going to do this?

I’ve set myself the target of raising £1 Million for Cancer Research UK.  A huge target I admit.  I have been involved in charity fundraising, it has usually been fairly successful as well.   But, I have NEVER taken on a project as large as this.  Before I answer the question of how, I should maybe discuss why.

Why?  My family have fought Cancer a number of times over the years and to be quite honest I am fed up seeing them suffering.   Battling through surgery after surgery, session after session of chemotherapy and seemingly never ending sessions of radiotherapy.  It simply sucks.  You feel helpless, unable to do anything to help get rid of it.  I mean you can make a proper good cup of tea, talk with them when they need a shoulder to lean on and make sure they are receiving all the vital nutrients their bodies need.  Despite how determined you are to help make them better, it always feels like you are extremely limited.  It’s such a horrible position to be in.  When you see family members and friends continually suffering all because of the same disease it all becomes quite tiresome.

Cancer is pretty widespread amongst my family but it hit me hardest when my mum was diagnosed for the second time in three years.  In 2013 she was diagnosed with Breast cancer. She needed the whole shooting match; surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but came out the the other side just as positive as ever.  In May 2016 she phoned from work in tears to tell me that she had been diagnosed with Endometrial Cancer.  To be honest, this news hit me far harder than the first time.  I had time to come to terms with the fact that she might have had cancer the first time (while all the tests were ongoing) and to be honest I think I dealt with it fairly well.  I think the more recent diagnosis hit me harder, because I didn’t have any time to prepare myself for the news.  I knew my mum was undergoing tests in line with her regular check up schedule but a diagnosis of Cancer wasn’t something I thought I would hear.  I guess I had convinced myself that she had fought and won her battle and that was her in the clear.  A Thursday morning, I had just returned home from nightshift and was away to jump into the shower when mum phoned from work in tears and told me of the diagnosis.  Mum knows I’d rather just be told upfront about things like this, it allows me to process the picture much better if I have all the information to hand.  I don’t see the point in skirting around the subject, in the end it doesn’t make it go away.  Needless to say, her boss told her to head home and take some time to process everything, something which I am very glad happened.  It gave the two of us the time to sit and discuss everything properly.  It frustrates me when people bad mouth the NHS.  I can’t say anything but the highest of praise for everyone in the NHS we have ever dealt with.  Thankfully, surgery solved the problem on its own this time and approximately 6 or 7 weeks after being diagnosed mum was cleared of the Cancer and back in remission.  To top this all off there are 2 other members of my family who are suffering from the disease…

I suppose that’s why I am doing this, to prevent people having to suffer from the disease and prevent families and friends from having to watch those who they care about suffering because of this disease.  I also want to prove to anyone who is suffering from Cancer and their friends and families that you can achieve anything with a positive attitude.  While I have never fought Cancer myself, I do know what it takes.

How then?  Well I intend to cycle, run and climb in order to raise this money and fund the vital research that is being conducted.  Living in Scotland I am extremely lucky to have 282 mountains that are over 3000ft (Munros to locals) in height.  It is my intention to climb a minimum of 4 per month.  As challenging as some Munros are they will serve another purpose; training for climbing the worlds tallest free standing mountain – Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa.  At 5895M or 19341ft it will be a major challenge, but one I am looking forward to!  Another mountainous challenge I am hoping to complete is the 3 peaks.  The 3 peaks involves climbing the highest peaks in Scotland (BenNevis), England (Scafell Pike) and Wales (Snowdon) in under 24 hours.  Running half marathons and marathons are also on the agenda and I will sign up to these as they become available.  In terms of my cycling challenges I have a few planned.  The first will be cycling the North Coast 500 (Scotlands answer to Route 66).  This is a 500 mile loop around the north of the country that starts and ends in Inverness.  Progressing from here it is my intention to cycle the length of the UK from John O’Groats to Lands End covering approximately 1000miles.

So, there’s lots planned for the coming months and 2017, but I am excited and positive.  I know that in time we will get there.  I only need 1 million people to donate £1 and how hard can that be?

Donating is quick and easy, you just need to follow this link.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/JED-SMITH1

Every single pound donated WILL make a difference and help fund the research that will in time eradicate this disease.

“For success, attitude is equally as important as ability” – Sir Walter Scott

J.

 

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