Finding inspiration in others

img_0740“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” – Helen Keller

I am in need of your help.  Approximately four months ago I made the decision that I was going to try and raise £1 million for Cancer Research UK and it is a decision that I am extremely glad I made.  I have taken time to evaluate my objections and set goals to help me on my way towards the £1 million mark.  But we are now truly underway and have approximately 9 weeks until I run in the Inverness Half Marathon, the first significant event on my list of goals and objectives along the way.

https://www.facebook.com/jedscancermission/

I want to do my utmost and very best to help Cancer Research UK work towards improving the chances of survival for cancer patients and help maintain the rapid advancements in treatment and care for those who suffer from this disease.  I just need two minutes of your time to like and share my page and help spread the word.  The more people that we get on board and spread the word the better chance we have of helping to raise all of this money.  As a result we have the opportunity to make a really significant difference in helping Cancer Research UK.  If you can spare £1 then I’d be more than grateful and I know that Cancer Research UK are extremely thankful for every pound that is donated to them to help advance their research.

Cancer Research UK is a very big charity and they do receive a lot of donations; however we have to remember that the research into cancer is unbelievably expensive and they really do need every penny they can get to help fight this battle.  I can say first hand that their research has saved the lives of a number of my family members and the lives of a great number of friends as well.  I don’t think there is anything more cruel than becoming ill and having the ability to go about your everyday life taken away from you.  We all know that our time here is limited and cancer can take that away from people who are only just getting started with their lives.

I take a huge amount of inspiration from Stephen Sutton, a teenager who you might remember from ‘Stephens’ Story’ which followed him as he battled with terminal cancer.  Unfortunately Stephen lost his battle with cancer in 2014, but before he did he made a massive impact upon improving the way that people perceive cancer and how they go about their everyday lives.  There are a number of speeches that Stephen gave during his battle with cancer which I watch regularly and I would urge you to watch them on Youtube if you can.  Stephen often spoke of the true value of the number 86400.  If someone gifted you £86400 at midnight every night and told you that you had 24 hours to spend it before you were given another £86400, you would more than likely find a way to spend it.  What so many of us don’t realise is that we are gifted 86400 seconds every day to meet new people, appreciate those around us, to enjoy new experiences and appreciate the lives that we are given.  So many of us fail to spend the vast majority of those seconds that we are given and waste them away.

Stephen had a huge impact on me, at the time my mum was fighting with breast cancer and Stephen always had the ability to make you positive about the situations that life deals you.  I truly wish that I had had the opportunity to meet him and thank him for giving me an improved outlook on my life and a better appreciation for everyone around me.  I nominated Stephen along with many others for a ‘Pride of Britain’ award in recognition of everything that he did during his short but full life and was extremely happy when I heard that he was to receive one.  I just wish that he had been able to receive the award which was presented to his mum in his memory.

I doubt that I will ever be able to achieve in the way that Stephen did, but almost three years on from his death he is always in my thoughts as I set out to try and help finance new research into the disease that claimed his life.

“From someone who wants more time in this world, please don’t waste yours, you’d be amazed what you can achieve when you try” – Stephen Sutton

As well as trying to fit in my runs as I build up to the Inverness Half Marathon in March, I am going to be getting on the bike just about everyday in order to start putting the miles into my legs ahead of riding the North Coast 500 and then from John O’Groats to Lands End.  Ideally I’d prefer to get out on the road but for days when I am working and it will be dark before I am home I have a turbo trainer that I can use to keep logging time on the bike.  I think I may have a companion for the North Coast 500 in the form of a colleague whom I have worked with for almost the last 5 years and who works on the International Search and Rescue team with me.  I think it’s going to help a lot having Steve riding with me; I always find it easier to dig a little deeper when I am riding with someone else!  The offer to join me on any of my trips or outings is always there and if you fancy giving something a try and raising some money for Cancer Research UK I’d be more than happy to have you join me!

As I said at the start of this weeks piece, if you could spare me two minutes of your time to help promote what I am doing I would massively appreciate it!

Many thanks as always.

J.

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Getting Started

Christmas has passed and I hope that you all had a great day!  Thankfully work was quiet and I had my meal with my family when I got in from work.  As always I received so many fantastic gifts and despite having to work it was a really good Christmas.  Hogmanay is this Saturday but I don’t think I will be up to too much due to being back at work on the 1st.  To me, Sunday the 1st is the true start.  As much as we have talked about doing this and setting out a bit of a plan, the start of the new year to me marks the beginning properly.

Getting started is often one of the hardest things to do.  Talking about doing something is pretty easy, but committing to it and putting it in motion is the complete opposite.  I’ve spent a couple if months looking into things, picking out the events that I would like to take part in and speaking to people about what I would like to do.  Now we have to get going and for me the New Year signals the crossing of that start line.  While there is an enormous mountain laid before us to climb, it can be climbed and we will hit that target of £1 million.  I know we will.

The 4th of February every year is World Cancer Day and if you can help me promote what I am doing and the incredible work that Cancer Research UK do I would be extremely grateful.  Cancer Research UK run a campaign of wearing a ‘unity band’ on the 4th and I will be taking part this year.  They have also asked if myself and mum would be happy to be part of an article talking about what mum has been through and what it is I am trying to do.  Hopefully that will help earn my challenge a bit more support.  I feel that I am continually asking the same people to support me and I know that so many of you have already donated very generously to what I am doing.  I’d really like to try and grow the support in the early part of the year and encourage more people to donate a little to Cancer Research UK.

I can’t remember if I had mentioned in a previous blog post about the possibility of going to visit one of the experimental cancer research facilities in Edinburgh, in order to better understand what the money is actually used for and to gain an understanding of the kinds of research that are being done into cancer.  I am really keen to do this and meet the people who are doing this amazing research and saving so many lives.  I have no idea when that will be but it is something I would like to try and fit in.

I have been speaking with my dad about him supporting my cycling ventures, I know for sure that the last thing I will want to do after cycling 100 miles on my bike will be standing cleaning and servicing it.  My dad works as teacher and I will need to try and plan these trips during his holiday periods.  But that shouldn’t be too hard I don’t think, it might mean that I have to swap a couple shifts at work but we will get that organised.  The North Coast 500 will probably be the first cycling trip of the year and I reckon will likely be around late spring.  I have spent this week doing a bit more planning for this trip and realised that google lied to me a bit.  It told me that the second day of the trip (Applecross to Ullapool) would be around 85 miles or 136 KM in length, it is, but to follow the North Coast 500 route you must travel via Gairloch (a town my dad used to teach in actually!) which adds quite a bit of distance and climbing to the day.  Day 2 of this trip will actually be 117 miles or 187 KM in length.  I think this is probably going to be the hardest day of what I am hoping will be a 5 day trip.  This will come the day after a particularly hard climb on the road over to Applecross.  But it is what needs doing so we will get it done I am sure!  I have put the routes for days one and two below along with the elevation charts so you can see what the route looks like if you weren’t sure.  I think this trip will definetly serve as pretty good training for John O’Groats to Lands End and I think it will also do my legs good for climbing Kilimanjaro.

day-1-north-coast-500-pic

Day 2 North Coast 500 - pic.png

I’ve got a trip to Kilimanjaro picked out so booking that is going to be a priority in the coming weeks.  It is my intention to get back out on the hills soon, it has been a manic few weeks with lots on and I am conscious that I haven’t managed to get out on the hills as much as I would have liked.  The other thing which is now an added issue is that the Scottish winter has arrived and the weather on the hills is far more volatile than usual.  I’d therefore ideally only head into the mountains with a climbing partner, purely for safety and I hope you all appreciate that.  As much as I want to raise all this money and complete as many challenges as I physically can I’d rather not kill myself in the process!  The mountains in Scotland are often a far more dangerous place than people give them credit for and unfortunately deaths are reported every year which are caused by a number of different factors.  I love climbing in Scotland in the winter and I reckon we probably we have some of the most pristine mountains in the world, but I don’t love it enough to take massive risks.

“There’s a way to do it better – find it” – Thomas A. Edison

Its just about time to start off the new year and get going proper, I am really looking forward to it all now.  I hope all have an enjoyable Hogmanay and get a good start to the New Year.  Thank you all for your support, it is hugely appreciated as always!

J.

Work.

Work is a funny thing.  It is something almost all of us will do for the largest part of our lives.  But some of us live to work and others work to live.  In the fast paced world that we now live in, work defines who we are.

I consider myself extremely lucky to have gained full time employment at the age of 18 and had the ability to earn my own money and to enjoy it how I see fit.  My move from university to a uniformed  service forced me to grow up and learn new things.  From the start I always felt that I had the attributes to be there and do the job but I have to admit, it did force me to learn how to iron properly!

I enjoy work on the whole.  At my work, no two days are ever the same and that keeps it interesting.  When I start a day or a nightshift quite literally anything could happen.  I have served with the fire service for almost 5 years now and I have been to plenty of strange incidents I can assure you.  If you can think of it, its probably happened somewhere!  I think there is a common misconception about what we do.  A huge number of people don’t realise the vast array of skills and specialisms a modern firefighter now has.  We aren’t as busy as we used to be, but that is thanks to the hard work that firefighters have put in to stop traumatic incidents occurring.

I would suggest that shifts tend to know each other better than the average colleagues ever do.  We are in each others company for around 50 hours a week so watches almost become secondary families and the station becomes a secondary home where we cook for each other, clean and train together.  I guess that’s part of what makes the fire service unique and sometimes hard to understand for people who don’t work there.  For me you should never live to work, you can still enjoy what you do, but I have been faced with the fact that life can be all too short.  There is an amazing world out there with so many incredible experiences waiting to be had.  Living purely for  work is a very narrow life.

What a lot of people don’t realise about firefighting is that it puts you at a significantly higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer because of the work we do.  The extreme heat you are subjected to affects your body, it thickens your blood and can cause significant dehydration.  Modern synthetic manufacturing materials contain carcinogens which are released in smoke when they burn.  Follow this link if you would to know more:

‘The Atlantic: How Modern Furniture Endangers Firefighters’

My family has been affected a number of times over the years, indeed the disease has been widespread in a number of different forms, which I would suggest raise the chances of me developing this disease.  When you also take into account my line of work I suppose my chances of developing cancer are fairly high.  But, I don’t spend every minute of every day worrying that I am going to get it.  I understand that risk is there and I should take the appropriate measures to try and lower that risk where I can.

Unfortunately though that risk is there for all of us.  No one is immune from developing cancer and that is why research is so important.  It’s why I believe in it so much.  It’s why I decided to try and raise £1 million.  Researching cancer, understanding it and developing new drugs takes time and a lot of money.  In the last 40 years research into cancer has doubled survival rates and Cancer Research UK want to improve those chances by half again.  But it will only happen if we all pledge to support them and pledge a pound to ensure that their vital life saving research continues at the same pace.

I have been working on a logo of sorts for the past few weeks so that I can give this ‘mission’ an identity of sorts and I will hopefully be able to publish it soon!

I had a good chat today (12/12/16) with Sarah who is my local fundraising manager for Cancer Research UK and we discussed what it is that I am trying to do and how the charity can help me work towards my goal.  I left feeling super positive and ready to take this challenge head on as the new year starts.  Positivity is something that I usually have a lot of but I am more positive than ever about what I am trying to do after my chat with Sarah today.  I’m trying to pack a huge amount into 2017 to try and raise as much money as I can and I know that the year will just fly by.  It wont be long until I’m running my first half marathon on behalf of Cancer Research UK and I can’t wait for that day to come.

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing” – Walt Disney

Just follow the link below to donate if you haven’t already it’s quick and easy:

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

J.

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.

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.

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.