On the 5th of November, adventurer Ross Edgley stepped foot on land for the first time in 157 days. He had just completed what is undoubtedly one of the greatest feats of endurance in recent memory. On July 1st, he and his crew set off from shore in an attempt to swim around the entire coast of Great Britain, something that had never been completed before (or perhaps even thought of?). 2,800km later, he had made it, setting 4 world records in the process. We thought it would be an interesting topic to examine how he pulled off this incredible feat and what lessons we can glean from him.
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Battling the cold water off the northern coast (15-20 Celsius average), hoards of stinging jellyfish, salt mouth, swamp foot, sea sickness and practically any other ailment you can conjure up, Ross pulled through with a smile on his face. Due to the fact he was in a horizontal position for practically the whole time (either swimming or sleeping), he’d almost lost the ability to walk. He had to work with a physiotherapist on board during the last few weeks to prepare him for the arrival to shore.
Most of you will be looking at this feat as we do; awed, overwhelmed, questioning the mans mental state, but perhaps not necessarily inspired. This is a feat that perhaps no-one will look to replicate and any endurance event that takes 157 days would be off the table for many, due to other life commitments alone. Still, while most of us won’t be swimming nearly 3,000km anytime soon, nor have the desire to, there’s a great deal Ross can teach all of us, particularly about the power of the mind.
After Following his journey since day 1, there have been a few key takeaways as to how he managed to actually achieve what he did, not only from a physical standpoint but perhaps more impressively, how he coped mentally.
Lessons from Ross Edgley’s Record Breaking Performance
Lesson 1: Approach Challenges with a Positive Mindset
Ross was practically always cheerful. At least on camera, there were very few occasions he looked down (besides the swimming…). Always laughing and joking around. There’s no question that a positive mindset and approach paid dividends. It would be near impossible to actually maintain that outlook in the face of a challenge such as this. Moods will ebb and flow, as will motivation. Maintaining a positive outlook is a deliberate choice however, and one we can hold onto regardless of external circumstances. Understanding that the low-points won’t last and that a new dawn will eventually appear helps pull you through.
Lesson 2: Surround Yourself With the Right People
He surrounded himself with a great support crew. People to take care of his immense food requirements, to take care of the ever changing navigational requirements and everybody to provide him with support and encouragement. He had different people joining him throughout parts of the swim, including the royal marines! This no doubt provided a new dose of motivation and excitement which kept the swim interesting. He was also rather active on social media and appeared to feed off the positive comments and feedback from his followers. The ability to connect with people remotely is a new aspect that the digital age brings and provides a great opportunity for gaining feedback from people worldwide.
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Setting the world’s longest sea swim record is amazing BUT to me it’s SO important the INSANE work ethic and sea-based genius of the captain of the #greatbritishswim is acknowledged @matthewnuit has covered EVERY cold, dark, jellyfish infested mile with me & plotted the entire route down to the finest detail! And although it’s called a “swim” his INCREDIBLE knowledge of the sea and over 40 years of experience is really what’s made this possible! This record is as much his as it is mine and MUCHOS important to me that’s known 😊
Lesson 3: Prepare for Obstacles and Tackle Them Methodically
He overcame obstacles as they arose, without panicking. Jellyfish became a tremendous problem throughout much of the swim and particularly early on, they were unsure of what to do to combat them. They tried a range of different options, while Ross stayed in the water and grinded it out regardless. It was obviously incredibly painful to have them brushing against his face but he persevered and pushed through without panicking.
This was almost certainly a problem they foresaw, as was the problem of fighting tides and weather conditions. Meticulous planning and preparation no doubt fosters the ability to stay calm during a crisis, as nobody is caught off guard. Certain problems are always going to eventuate that haven’t been planned for however (salt tongue may have been one) and it’s essential to stay calm and work through the problem with a methodical approach, while not sacrificing your momentum.
Lesson 4: Break Down a Huge Challenge into Smaller Chunks
The swim was broken down into small chunks. The team set small milestones, such as famous landmarks that they would aim to swim to. Furthermore, they didn’t really appear to focus on anything past the next 6 hour stretch in the water. It would’ve been impossible to persevere had Ross been focused on the end, without staying in the present for the duration. No doubt there was a great deal of flow involved..
Lesson 5: Seek Flow
When finding oneself in a flow state, time appears almost irrelevant, as though hours can fly by in the blink of an eye. If you listen to our latest podcast The Flow State, Paul discusses how we can achieve flow by focusing on rhythm and timing our strokes when swimming. No doubt Ross embraced this practice and benefited from it immensely when dealing with the overwhelming amount of time he had to spend in the water.