From Council Estate to Cruise Ship

TickTheBucket (www.tickthebucket.org) is a fantastic new start-up that I serendipitously stumbled across when looking for something fun to do with my friend one evening. Its aim is to bring strangers together so they can help one another to tick things off their bucket list, and they hold monthly events where they invite people to share stories about their adventures. Every time I’ve been to one, I’ve left feeling super-inspired and with a bucket list longer than what I went in with, so I was thrilled when I had the pleasure of sharing my own personal story about my bucket list at event no.3, one that I will share with you here too.

First of all, here are a few key facts about me and my bucket list:

1) I probably have the world's most organised bucket list ever!

I recently modernised what was a paper-and-pencil bucket list, into a digital, cloud-based medium called Trello. It’s a fantastic project management tool that resembles having a bunch of Post-it notes organised into lists. I’ve got one list for each area of my life in which I have aspirations, for example, my career, my hobbies, travelling etc. And within each list is each thing I want to tick off. For the super-organised amongst us, you can even colour-code label the items, which I use to indicate the year that I am assigning to get it done. So my first tip of the day, if you haven't written your bucket list down, YOU MUST! Writing things down on paper makes it significantly more likely to happen than if these things just stay in your head. Pen, crayon, eyeliner, Trello board – it doesn’t matter, just get it out of your head and onto something real.

2) From that bucket list, I’ve ticked 39 things off so far (and I am only 28 years old). These include:

  • Doing a skydive
  • Going to the Tomatina festival, Spain (the world’s largest tomato fight which takes place in August every year)
  • Seeing the Northern Lights
  • Swimming with dolphins
  • Flying a plane (it was a Cessna, and a friend has a private pilot’s license which we put to good use!)
  • Backpacking through South America, alone. This is one of my proudest achievements, as I’d never even been to Europe alone, let alone South America. I didn’t speak the language and I went for a month, making my way from place to place – something I never thought I’d even be capable of doing!
  • I worked on cruise ships for 2 years, getting paid to sail around the Caribbean and for part of it, up to Alaska
  • I’ve visited 34 countries, and I am on track to hit ’40 before 30’ (40 countries before I turn 30) Not bad considering I was 16 before I first went abroad, so that’s 34 countries in 12 years
  • And another big one for me, I’m now full time self employed running my own business as a coach, trainer and speaker, something else I am hugely proud of achieving.

So just a few more facts about me to put all this into context:

I’m from a place called Walsall, in the West Midlands. In case you haven’t heard of it (most haven’t), I managed to find an independent review site called www.ilivehere.com which gives a description of what Walsall is like. I thought I’d share it with you so you can get an idea:

“chav – ridden wasteland” 

“nowhere in Walsall can you live a safe distance from thieving dole-scroungers”

“unfortunately there are no plus sides to living in this hell hole”

Unfortunately, this is what I’d call a pretty accurate description of the town and council estate where I spent the first 18 years of my life. Nice huh. In addition to that, I came from quite a low-income family: my Dad worked for British Gas fixing gas fires, my Mum did some part time cleaning jobs here or there. I was the kid that qualified for free school meals when it was means-tested, and we had such little money that my Mum couldn’t afford to buy me and my brother just the regular high-street brands like Adidas or Nike, for which I was often teased at school. Not a fan of being teased, when my Mum was buying me a pair of tracksuit bottoms, I asked her to buy me the pair that had 4 stripes down the side, and unstitch one of them in the hope it’d look like the three stripes of Adidas instead. Sadly, the kids noticed anyway and I just got teased even more. At least I tried.

It also meant that when the kids in class were going to Disneyworld or the Canary Islands, I was going to caravan parks in Wales. In fact, I’d never been abroad with my parents until just 2 years ago when I was 26. It had always been a dream of my Mum’s to go on a cruise, but even as a kid I knew she’d never be able to afford it. So I put it on my bucket list to one day be rich and successful enough to take her on one myself. Lo and behold I get a job on cruises, and so I ticked it off my bucket list, to tick something off her bucket list, and paid for her to come and cruise with me. I wasn’t quite rich and successful yet, but I did it anyway!

So all in all, it’s safe to say that I lived a pretty sheltered life up until I was 18, when I left to go to university. I also used to be incredibly shy, so much so that my Mum once took me to see a hypnotherapist with the aim of helping me to become more confident. It didn’t seem to do much good though, until I moved to London when I started meeting really interesting people doing some really cool things, just living life on their own terms, often in ways I didn’t even know existed. That was always alright for them though, but “I couldn’t ever do that’. Specifically, I thought could never go travelling alone (because I was too shy) and I could never run my own business (because I’m wasn’t capable of doing so).

 

But I started to get itchy feet. It occurred to me that there must be more to life than sitting at an office desk, 9 to 6 (it’s not even 9 to 5 these days). So I started to ask myself ‘why them and not me?’ Why can they go and do these things, but I can’t?

 

And I realized, that the only difference between me and them was my thoughts and beliefs about whether I could achieve it or not. Like Henry Ford says, ‘whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right’. When I realized this, I set about on an amazing journey of overcoming these doubts and beliefs, of ticking things off my bucket list, and making my dreams come true.

And so the point that I like to emphasize here, is that regardless of your background, your circumstances, your class, your age, how much money you have, your education, etc.:

 

You too, can make your dreams come true, no matter what.

 

I truly believe that there are no limitations to what you can achieve, except for the limitations of your own mind, and it’s this principle that I now coach others into believing too. You just have to believe in yourself to be able to do it. (Look up an awesome Ted video by Carol Dweck on ‘growth mindset’ for further proof on this).

So how did I do it? How did I get myself from a chav-ridden council estate and zero confidence, to cruise ships and self-employment? Well let me share with you my top tips in the hope it’ll encourage you too.

 

  • I started to say yes more

When I moved to London I wasn’t a particularly spontaneous person. I was quite reserved and only stuck to the things I already knew. That was, until the relationship I was in at the time, ended, and I didn’t have much left to say for myself. Quite simply, I needed to get a life. So I read the book, Yes Man, by Danny Wallace and it inspired me to just say yes more to opportunities that arose. It was Christmas time when we split up, and I distinctly remember being at a New Year’s Eve party which was quite frankly, rubbish. At that party, I said to myself, “This time next year, I don’t know where I am going to be, what I am going to be doing, or who I will be with, but my life will not look like this.”

 

One year later, I am stood on the top deck of a cruise ship, with 4000 people, popping champagne in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.

 

All because I said YES. I said YES to starting a new hobby - photography, which is what lead me to the job as a photographer on the ship. Saying yes is like knocking over the first domino, one thing leads to another, and you never know where that might be. So just say yes!

 

  • Learn from others

People used to think it was physically impossible for a human being to run a mile in under 4 minutes. Until one day, Roger Bannister did it. Within weeks, others did it too. All simply because they suddenly believed it was possible. If it is possible for others, it’s possible for you. Find people doing what you want to do and learn from them. Thousands of people go travelling by themselves every day, and many more start businesses. It was possible – all I had to do was learn how.

 

  • Spend time on your personal development

The learning ‘how’ to do these things wasn’t just a case of learning the steps to doing it. It was about learning how to BE the person I needed to be in order to achieve them. Changing my life meant change MYSELF. It meant understanding who I was, my behaviours, my fears, and my beliefs. It meant developing my confidence, and managing my emotions. It meant learning about how to understand and deal with other people, so that I could have effective friendships and relationships that helped me with my goals. The most important thing you will ever work on is yourself, so don’t be shy in investing in your personal development and growth, because it could just change your life.

 

  • Stop making excuses

What evidence did I have to say I couldn’t go travelling when I’d never tried it? How did I know I couldn’t run a business when I’d never done it? These were just excuses I made up, and excuses are there simply to mask fear. It’s easier to have an excuse and blame ‘no money / no confidence / no degree / no-one to go with / mortgage to pay’, than is it to hold your hands up and say “I’m scared”, “I’m worried I might fail”, or “I don’t know what to do.” Which leads me to my final tip:

 

  • Feel the fear and do it anyway!

There are 3 facts about fear:

  1. Fear will never go away for as long as you grow
  2. The only way to get rid of fear is to do what scares you
  3. Everyone is scared when facing the unknown, not everyone lets it stop them

 

Accept that fear, know that it’s a good thing it’s there (it means you’re growing), and know that once you’ve done it, you’ll be stronger and more capable than ever before.

And remember, your bucket list doesn’t have to be a list of super crazy things like ‘live on Mars’ ‘or be the first person to hula-hoop across the south pole naked’ – it’s whatever is fun, meaningful and fulfilling to you, no matter how big or small. It’s such a cliché to say but you really do have only one life and one opportunity to experience all that you want to do: don’t waste it.