The Danger of Achieving Big Goals: The Other Side of the Finish Line

Back in November 2011 I attended a seminar in Saigon delivered by professional development trainer Brian Tracy. At the time I was unfit and overweight, but inspired by the talk I decided to set myself a number of disciplined health, fitness and career goals. My immediate focus was on losing weight and getting into shape. After a year of gradually stepping up my exercise regime I decided to take the plunge and signed up for 10km race and then a half marathon (21km). I continued with a strict training programme and in July 2013 completed my first full marathon (42km). As the day of the marathon drew closer I began to become worried about what would happen after I’d crossed the finish line. Would I lose my motivation and drop back into old bad fitness habits like sleeping in late, not eating healthily and making excuses for avoiding training sessions? Would I be tempted by pizza, pasta and burgers as well as too many late evenings with my mates at the pub?

The answer was to think bigger – triathlons. With this in mind I bought a bike and started to take swimming lessons. At this point I didn’t know whether I would complete a marathon, let alone a race that also included swimming and cycling (I couldn’t swim crawl at the time and hadn’t been on a bike in more than 15 years!) But as life coach Bob Procter teaches, it is important to set a goal that is so big it scares you. I set my sights on the ultimate triathlon race – the IRONMAN. After getting in touch with Stephane Laporte, a triathlon coach, we developed a long-term training plan to make sure I reached my goal.

It was the start of an amazing journey. I gradually stepped up the intensity of my training and increased my speed and distances. My confidence was growing and in August 2013 I signed up for IRONMAN Sweden, a race that was to take place a year later in my hometown of Kalmar. On 16 August 2014 I completed my first full IRONMAN race – a 3.86km swim, 180km cycle ride and 42.2km run, all of which needed to be completed in less than 16 hours. I crossed the line in 12 hours 28 min.

I managed to reach this fitness goal by being focused, disciplined and having a very clear plan that allowed me to move forward one step at a time. I firmly believe that if I can do it then any healthy person can complete an IRONMAN. The problem is that many of us cannot visualise ever crossing the finish line of such an arduous race. We are unwilling to commit to the disciplined training. We find it hard to say no to dinners, or parties or the television. Completing anything takes commitment and with something like an IRONMAN one is either in or out, there is no half-way.

During the 12 months of training I was often woken by my alarm at 4.30am. It was dark outside, I was tired and it was extremely tempting to turn over and go back to sleep. It is the easiest thing in the world to come up with a reason not to do something at 4.30am. So I forced myself to think of the bigger picture – my ultimate fitness goal and crossing that finish line in Sweden. Whether I had slept just a couple of hours, or not at all, I would force myself out of bed and stick to my training plan. This “no excuses” attitude sometimes included a 35km run, even though I had arrived home at midnight after a business trip. I am proud to say that I only cancelled my training sessions on a handful of occasions. As I became fitter and healthier it became easier and easier to get out of bed. I was losing weight and gaining energy. My daily exercise regime was paying off. My natural endorphin levels were up and I was actually becoming “addicted” to my new routine.

And then it happened. On 16 August I crossed the IRONMAN finish line. I had completed my ultimate fitness goal. But what now? I had been focusing so hard on completing the race in the 12 months leading up to it that I’d forgotten to think about what life would be like afterwards. Although I had signed up to other marathons and triathlons my motivation had left me. I felt empty. The month after IRONMAN Sweden was a real struggle. I began to cancel training sessions and eventually gave up completely. I had post-race depression; something I have since found out is commonly referred to as “IRONMAN blues”. Although I have managed to pull myself together and get some of my training motivation back, it is not the same as before. I simply feel there is no point; after all I’ve already achieved my ultimate fitness goal.

The finish line in Kalmar was a stopping point. But I’d worked so hard to get there. Such a huge and inspiring goal gave me the motivation to push myself through all that training, healthy eating, early morning runs and the race itself. Even though crossing the finish line was an amazing experience, and well worth it, Kalmar was like a brick wall. I now have to climb over it and start all over again, and starting over seems harder than ever starting in the first place. It has been said that achieving success can cause people to stop moving forward, like writers or musicians who fail to deliver that second novel, or second album, after the huge success of the first. We reach a feeling of completion, and that is bad news for creativity and maintaining discipline, or in my case keeping fit.

I now have to push myself much harder to get out of bed. I have cancelled more training sessions over the past five weeks than I ever did during the 12 months I was training for the IRONMAN. I consider those five weeks a personal failure despite achieving a personal best in the Bali half marathon on 14 September.

I have decided that I need to stop thinking about crossing the finish line in Kalmar and the training I put in during the months before the race. I need to set new goals and find fresh and exciting new targets. As my friend Doug Anderson reminds me: “A person is defined by how well he rises after he falls.” I am already registered for the Jakarta marathon on 26 October as well as the Phuket Half Ironman on 30 November and three full distance Ironman races in 2015.

I am also determined to explore bigger goals such as 100km ultra-marathons and more challenging Ironman races. Although I am still concerned about how I will feel once I complete these more difficult races, I have decided to focus on improving my times in the races I have already run. I am aware that I need to find new ways to motivate myself. Perhaps I will concentrate on health, strength and stamina rather than focusing on my time at the finish line. But one thing is certain, I need to get back into training and stop making excuses!

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    Pain is Temporary. Quitting lasts Forever

    On April 13, 2014 I completed my first IRONMAN 70.3 (Half IRONMAN). The race consisted of a 1.9km swim, a 90km bike ride and a 21km run. After a grueling seven hours, 13 minutes and 15 seconds beneath a clear blue sky in sweltering 35 degree heat I managed to cross the finish line. As I did so I collapsed in enormous pain, screaming at the top of my lungs.

    In the weeks leading up to the event I concentrated on preparing myself mentally for the physical pain I knew I was going to suffer. Because of this I knew that no matter how bad the pain became I would complete the race.

    Collapsing at the finishing line was not the first time my body tried to give up on me. Around 12km into the run I began to suffer from dehydration and crippling cramps and with just 800m to go I collapsed. The other runners, volunteers and medics were extremely generous in their support and helped me by stretching and spraying my cramped, aching limbs. That last 800 meters took me nearly an hour to complete, but when I look back I realize that at no point during the crippling pain and difficulty to keep myself moving did it cross my mind to quit the race. I even remember deciding that if my legs would not carry me, then I would crawl over the finish line. Luckily I was able to limp to the end.

    As I reflect on the experience it is again obvious to me that we humans are capable of achieving so much more than we imagine. Just 18 months ago I could not walk up a hill on a golf course without feeling exhausted and out of breath. I was 25kg heavier than I am today on the verge of obesity. I had never even achieved so much as a fun run, was a weak swimmer and hadn’t ridden a bike in more than 20 years.

    I decided I needed to take action. I started to write goals, not just for getting into shape, but for all areas in my life. But getting fit was a priority, so I joined a gym and found myself a personal trainer. I completed a 10km fun run, then a half-marathon and then a marathon. I also learned to swim properly and purchased a bike. This enabled me to begin competing in short triathlons and gradually join longer races.

    For me the winning formula was simple. Set a goal, complete it and then set a bigger goal. I read the following somewhere: “Start by doing what is necessary; then do what’s possible and suddenly you are achieving the impossible”. By taking this advice I have just been able to complete what was once the impossible – an IRONMAN 70.3!

    In August 2013 I wrote down that my ultimate fitness goal was to one day complete an IRONMAN. The race consists of a 3.8km open water swim, a 180km bike ride and a 42km run, in that order. The event has to be completed in less than 16 hours and is considered so extreme that it scares many professional athletes. I realized at the time of setting myself this goal the only way I was going to achieve it was through dedication, self discipline and lots of hard work. There could be no excuses. I am now half way to that goal.

    But the IRONMAN is more than just a goal, it is a dream. Achieving that dream will lead to a fitter healthier life. It was never going to be easy, but I am proud that I have dared to dream. I have made sacrifices on my journey, some of them painful. Over the past 18 months I have pushed myself through more than 450 training sessions and completed a dozen races. But I am willing to put myself through temporary discomfort because I am constantly aware of the bigger picture and where pushing myself as hard as I can will eventually lead. I am aware that if something doesn’t challenge me, it does not change me. In life we constantly have two options – either we suffer the pain of discipline now or the pain of regret later.

    Success in all areas of life is linked to determination. Too many people give up on what they want far too easily. If we want something badly enough then the price we pay for it is going to be high, but if you refuse to give up and continue to work towards that goal you will ultimately reach it. Even if you get knocked down along the way the key is to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep moving forwards. I may have suffered during the IRONMAN 70.3, but there is no chance I’m giving up when my ultimate goal is in sight.

    Following the race I talked to people who told me that I had little chance of completing a full IRONMAN in just four months time. People will always tell us that we cannot do things. But how dare they tell me I can’t have my dream. It is important to shrug off these comments, pick oneself up and keep moving forward.

    I understand that there are few major secrets in life. If we are willing to work hard then we can achieve nearly any goal we set ourselves. This is what life is about. We should constantly compete against ourselves, face up to our fears and follow our dreams and desires. We all grow when we strive to reach beyond the limits of our comfort zone and test our limits.

    For me the next challenge is the official Swedish IRONMAN which takes place in August in my home town of Kalmar. I may not be ready to compete, but I will take my place on the starting line and no matter how the race ends, at least I will not have to spend the rest of my life asking myself: “What if…?”


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      The Secret to Success

      Set Goals. Achieve them. Set Bigger Goals. Achieve them too. Repeat

      On 27 July this year I completed my first ever marathon. This goal was achieved just eight months after running my first 10km race, something doctors once said would never happen because of a severe Achilles tendon injury.

      Back in November 2012 the thought of running 10km on an injured leg was terrifying. The thought of ever attempting the 42kms that make up a full marathon was virtually inconceivable. However, as a good friend once said: ‘The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.’ And this is the way to achieve even seemingly insurmountable tasks, one small step at a time. By setting ourselves a series of goals we are able to make those steps bigger, and this is how, a month ago, I crossed the finish line in Orland, Sweden

      July 27, 2013 Marathon Finishers Nick & Thomas

      well within my target of four hours (3 hours 53 minutes).

      But what are we supposed to do when our ultimate goal has been achieved? The answer is there is always something higher to aim for.

      Having completed the marathon, some bad habits returned. It becomes all too easy for us to congratulate ourselves after achieving a major goal by becoming less disciplined. We might start doing less exercise, eating less healthily, and becoming less focused. And then we begin to see the negative effects – we put on weight, lose our fitness and find ourselves becoming irritable and lethargic. When this happens it is important to set ourselves bigger goals, for me it was a more aggressive fitness challenge.

      During my marathon training I had become aware of something called the Iron Man. This really is one of the ultimate tests of endurance. The race consists of three parts: a 3.8km swim followed by a 180km cycle race and finally a marathon. The whole event has to be completed in less than 17 hours for the title of Iron Man to be awarded. However, for many like me, just making it over the finishing line would be an incredible feat.

      So now, with a new physical goal in mind it was important to start preparing. I have already completed a couple of short distance triathlons, or mini Iron Man races you may call them, in order to get used to combining the three disciplines. However, there is still a long way to go since the distance I am currently doing is around 10% of the Iron Man. My swimming and cycling needs major improvement, but by using the same formula that got me through my marathon – stick to strict training plan, eat and drink well and get enough sleep – I will be able to complete the Iron Man!

      The Iron Man Sweden takes place on 16 August 2014 and I am committed to it. Not only because the 500 euro registration fee has been handed over, but also because it really excites me. So no backing out now!

      The next stage is to start taking bites out of the elephant. The first bite is on 31 August in Bintan, an Island off Singapore, where a longer triathlon will take place. This is followed in November by a trip to Phuket, Thailand, where the race is a mix of Olympic triathlon/half Iron Man. In May next year the goal is to complete a half Iron Man and then it is the full Iron Man competition in Sweden next August.

      That leaves a year to prepare. It is important to avoid making excuses and push myself a little more each day, and then it will happen. After all, winners make goals, and achieve them… losers make excuses.

      The main reason for pushing hard in terms of fitness is the fact that I refused to let the doctors be right about me never being able to walk properly, or ever run, again. Every day we should appreciate that we are able to put one foot in front of the other.

      The fact that we should feel blessed when we have our health was emphasised when I feared irreparable damage to my eyes recently.

      Badly damaged eye, lost my eye sight for 2 days. Very scary feeling. So glad that my eye sight now gradually is coming back!


      The incident occurred after a training swim in the sea at the beginning of August. Foolishly forgetting to rinse properly the anti-fog spray out of my swimming goggles, by the time I was walking out of the sea my vision had started to blur. It was getting worse by the minute and becoming painful. Unable to see anything at all I was rushed to hospital and was given treatment immediately. The pain and loss of almost complete vision lasted for two days. The cornea in one eye had been badly damaged and the other eye had been scratched. However, now three weeks later about 90 per cent vision has returned to the badly damaged eye. I hope to soon be fully recovered.

      The point is that it takes the smallest of incidents to turn our lives upside down. We should use these experiences to help us focus on what is really important in life. The experience has certainly helped me to focus on training, and every time quitting feels like an option I tell myself that without my eyesight I’d probably have to give up all hope of ever competing again.

      People are often at their best when faced with a crisis. The more challenges we face, the stronger we become and usually emerge more motivated and happier than we were before. The thought of losing something like our eyesight, or never being able to run again, is terrifying. However, when we come through such experiences, we should be grateful and celebrate by working harder the achieve our goals without becoming angry or bitter towards what caused the problems in the first place, even if it was our own mistake to begin with.

      I know that I am not yet ready for the Iron Man. But the most successful people always start things before they feel ready. We may feel unqualified, uncertain and unprepared. But this is what makes striving to achieve one’s goal so exciting. Winners may not have the resources or experience, but they start anyway. Winners start today by taking a bite of the elephant.

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        Need for Speed: Life in the Fast Lane

        I want to die at a hundred years old, after screaming down an Alpine descent on a bicycle at 120 km/h. A slow death is not for me. I don’t do anything slow, not even breathe. I do everything at a fast speed.

        Although these words could well have come from me, they were written by Lance Armstrong in 2001. Earlier this year the legendary cyclist was stripped of all seven Tour de France titles after confessing to the use of performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career.

        Unlike Lance my sporting achievements have been drug free, but, like Lance, I have to admit that I am a speed addict. At 18 I passed my driving test. Before the laminate on the license had a chance to cool I was heading south out of Sweden and into Europe on a brand new Kawasaki 1000cc. With 150 horse power between my legs and traveling at speeds of up to 250km/h I was soon in Spain. Having run out of road I turned the bike around and sped back up north. This became something I would do each summer. I soon upgraded to a super fast Ducati 916 and can still taste the thrill of racing Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s along some of the fastest highways in southern Europe.

        The rush of endorphins and adrenaline that comes with driving powerful bikes gave me a huge kick. However, a few too many crashes taught me that an addiction to fast bikes can all too often lead to a short life. An accident that left me with whiplash for life, along with the birth of our son Percy four years ago, persuaded me to give up my last bike and I have since settled for slightly less risky activities.

        That is not to say that I have lost my love for speed. Recently I have become hooked on a new sport that requires me to push myself as fast as I can go – the Triathlon. On 23 June I

        Happy Nick after given the finisher medal at Bali Triathlon

        completed the Bali International Triathlon and ended up on 21st place out of 187 competitors in the Sprint Distance (500m swim, 20km bike & 5km run). This incredible personal achievement began less than four months ago when I went out and bought my first tri-bike. Soon after this I took my very first private swimming lesson in an attempt to learn how to front crawl… from scratch.

        I still can’t quite believe that I have just managed to complete the running, swimming and cycling that is required during a triathlon. In fact, if I had been asked what sports made up a triathlon at the beginning of this year, I probably would have struggled to give an answer. Then, on 2 February, my good friend Henrik Ahlqvist posted up a picture of his new Cervelo tri-bike on Facebook along with the statement that he was going to complete an Iron Man.

        Well, I thought, if Henrik can do it, then so can I. After a bit of research into the ideal bike for

        Nick with his new Triathlon Bike on March 3, 2013. The start a new fitness goal to be achieved.

        a beginner I walked out of Saigon Cykles in Ho Chi Minh City on 3 March with my own TREK bike. Even though this is the biggest financial investment I have ever made in my personal fitness I knew that if I put the cash on the table I was going to have to take my training seriously. It was a sort of mental point of no return, so I did it. Two weeks later I signed myself up for the Bali International Triathlon, and that was it, I was completely committed.

        That was the easy bit. Now I had to learn how to cycle properly and, worst of all, overcome my fear of swimming in open water. Learning to front crawl is one thing, but being able to do it in a vast ocean is something quite different.

        My early swimming lessons did not go as well as I’d hoped they would. Although my coach Stephan Laporte was endlessly patient and supportive of my efforts I left Vietnam on 26 April still unable to front crawl 25 metres!

        If I had not bought the bike and signed up for the Bali triathlon there is a strong chance that I would have used leaving Vietnam and moving to a new home in Indonesia as an excuse to give it all up. To make sure this didn’t happen I did something that has helped me stay focused in the past – I told my friends and family I was going to do it. Letting them down on this promise was not an option for me. I was going to have to go through with the race now. Like it or not.

        A couple of days after moving my family to Jakarta I found a new swimming coach. Jez quickly helped me to complete my very first 50 metres crawl and even kindly agreed to come with me

        Jez (swim coach) and a happy Nick after his first ever 500m ocean swim practice

        to the West Java coast to accompany me on my first ever 500m ocean swim. Jez swam with a surfboard so I knew I had a safety net if I should panic.

        This swim was a bit more successful than my previous attempt to conquer the ocean. In May I took my wife Sofi to Bali to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. The beach was glorious and the sea looked inviting. This was a good opportunity to test out a bit of solitary sea swimming.

        SEVEN minutes I lasted before sprinting out of the shallows and swearing I would never go back in! Although I admit that its scares the hell out of me not to be able to feel the bottom, not knowing just how deep the sea is, and not knowing what animals are lurking in the depths eyeing me up as a potential meal; it is the lack of visibility that really gets me. Not being able to see more than a few feet under the water panics me more than anything.

        It was when reading my friend Henrik’s blog about his triathlon in Sweden that I got an idea how I could conquer this fear. He had completed the swimming section of the race in the pitch black water of a lake. I thought that if I could practice in water where I had no visibility it might make it easier when I got into the limited visibility of the ocean.

        In the few weeks leading up to the Bali triathlon my swimming routine took place in a pool, at night, with all the lights off. Although I had a few surprise encounters with the steps and the sides of the pool, I quickly got used to swimming in the dark. Goethe once wrote that: Everything is hard before it gets easy – and after mastering my fear of swimming in the pitch black, the sea leg of the Bali triathlon was a breeze. I was amazed to find that I did not panic at all!

        It is important that we continue to overcome our fears. This helps us to grow our self confidence and with this our level of happiness. I have found that a strong sense of self discipline has helped me to overcome some of my fears. Last year I conquered my fear of speaking in public and this year it has been my fear of swimming in open water. However, I realise that we all need to continue challenging ourselves so that we do not let our fears control us. A major mistake many of us make that means we do not have control of our lives is not taking that very first step. I took the first step to conquering my first triathlon by signing up and making my registration official. By doing so, I put pressure on myself to see the job through.

        I have now signed myself up for several more races. Each will stretch me more than the last. Next up is the Oland Marathon on 27 July, then the Kalmar Mini Triathlon on 14 August and following that the MetaMan Triathlon in Bintan on 31 August. Although the schedule is tight the feeling I get from pushing myself faster is as addictive now as it was when I was riding a Ducati through Europe. I need to achieve bigger goals because this in turn increases my self confidence and happiness.

        I am continuing to push myself as hard as I can with the swimming , biking and running needed

        Giving it 100% in Bali Triathlon

        for the triathlon. I currently have a yet another wonderful swimming coach, Fernando Vega Delgado, who is helping me perfect my front crawl. I am very happy to be able to say that I am still living my life in the fast lane.


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          Avoiding the Comfort Zone

          A major reason for people not achieving their potential is that they get stuck in a comfort zone. It is commonly argued that successful leaders try to avoid doing this by constantly setting higher goals for themselves. The problem with a comfort zone is that it can lead to a person becoming non-productive and ultimately bored. This is why it is important to continually set ourselves bigger targets and be persistent about achieving them.

          I have just taken myself and my family out of our comfort zone in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where we had made a lovely home and wonderful friends. We are now in Jakarta, Indonesia, a city that is foreign to us all. However, I had been becoming increasingly aware that the comfort zone I had created was becoming less challenging and less fulfilling. It was time to move on.

          Moving from Vietnam to Indonesia means that I am faced with challenges such as understanding a new religion, learning a new language, getting settled in a new home, finding a new school for our son, working alongside and getting to know my new colleagues and making new friends. In fact, everything is new to me, but these challenges are all part of leaving my comfort zone, and I welcome them.

          That is not to say it is easy to leave one’s comfort zone. I have actually found it more difficult than I thought I would – especially having to say farewell to the fantastic friends we made in Vietnam. It seems to me that as we get older, we become more appreciative of, and therefore dependent on, what we have, and this makes it harder to push forward by giving it all up to start again. Since leaving Sweden 15 years ago, Vietnam has been the country I have called home for the longest.

          But this move was what I and my family chose. I actually wrote it down as one of my top-10 goals in 2012 and if I had not focused my full attention on making it happen, I would probably still be in Ho Chi Minh City. I’m not saying that would be a bad thing just that I would have missed a major opportunity, and one that I have worked hard for. By focusing on the move to Jakarta I believe that, in a sense, the universe has given me what I asked for. I am welcoming the new challenges that wait for us in Jakarta.

          Despite having to deal with the challenges facing me since I relocated my family to Indonesia, I remain positive and focused on setting and achieving greater goals. Thanks to my new friend Erick Renaldo, I have been shown what a great city Jakarta is for cyclists. After an early morning swim on Saturday Erick showed me just how sport friendly this city is. Afterwards I

          Cycling in Downtown Jakarta

          went back to the gym for a 13km run. This was a very satisfying way to start a weekend in my new town and excellent training for my Bali Triathlon next month. The next morning I was back on the bike again and managed to beat my 20km cycling best with a time of 34 minutes.

          The great thing about being able to motivate myself to exercise in the early mornings on weekends is that I get the rest of the day to spend with my family. Last weekend we had time to go shopping together, visit the zoo, go swimming and relax in front of some movies. As I get older I realize more and more just how important it is to balance one’s life. For me this means working hard at my job, but also putting as much time as possible aside in order to achieve a healthy personal and family life.

          On May 10 Sofi and I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary by taking our son Percy to Bali. I am excited about spending time relaxing with my lovely family and we have very kindly been lent a beautiful villa on the island by a colleague. It will also be a good opportunity for me to practice my open water swimming, which will come in handy for next month’s Triathlon – an event I expect to be the biggest fitness challenge of my life so far since I am terrified of swimming in open water. This is yet another example of stepping outside the comfort zone but I remain confident that I will be able to also overcome that fear too. To put it in Tom Hopkins words “Do what you fear most and you control fear.”

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            Delivering Happiness in Vegas

            I arrived in Las Vegas, exhausted after a long flight from Ho Chi Minh City via Seoul, to find my luggage had gone missing. It was 4pm on Friday 29 March and it had taken what seemed like an eternity to get through passport control. When it was obvious that my bag would not be making an appearance on the carousel I asked a lady at the desk where it might be. I told her that I had flown with Korean Airways and was rather stunned when she started to babble on about the threat of a nuclear attack from North Korea! I was tired, I had no luggage and now I was being forced to listen to the ill informed, and frankly irrelevant, opinions of a woman I had asked for help.

            My bag was finally located. It had apparently been mislaid during the transfer in Seoul and was now on its way to Los Angeles. I was told that it would be delivered to my hotel within a few hours. I was relieved that at least it had made it to the right part of the right country and went to collect the fabulous convertible Ford Mustang I’d hired for the week. I

            The Ford Mustang I hired in Las Vegas and yes it had NO number plates.

            raced down the highway and onto the legendary Casino Strip. I was staying at the Golden Nugget in downtown Vegas where I ate a meal and then went to my room to read a book and wait for my bag. Although I tried to stay awake I must finally have dozed off at around 1.30am.

            I woke at 4.30am, which gave me plenty of time to prepare for the marathon I was due to start at 6am. I got into the Mustang and made my way into town. While I was stopped at a traffic light a man appeared at my window holding a gun. He asked me to hand over all my belongings. With the weapon just inches from my face I did as he requested without protest. It was obvious to me that this man was not happy, so I asked him how he was doing and why he felt he needed to rob me. He explained that it was because he had no job and needed money to pay for food and rent. Although he had just robbed me at gun point I felt pity for this man and asked if there was anything I might be able to do to help. He was visibly surprised by this but asked me if I could perhaps drive him home. I told him to jump in and give me directions. He told me he lived 20 minutes away. I reassured him that I was not upset about the robbery and that I had no intention of involving the police. It was then that I looked at my watch and realised that it was already 5.30am and there was no way I could drive this man home and make the start of my race.

            The choice was not difficult. We talked, exchanged phone numbers and as I dropped him at his door I promised I would be in contact to see how he was getting on and if I could do more to help. I then headed off to the marathon I had come to Las Vegas to run. I arrived at 6.15am and apologized to the organisers. They listened in shock to my story and agreed that I could have a late start. I managed to complete the race, tired and sweaty, less than four hours later.

            I was woken suddenly by the sound of my hotel room’s doorbell. It was the bell boy delivering my bag. I checked my watch and saw that it was 2am. I had only been asleep for half-an-hour. I took my bag and lay back down on my bed struck by how real the dream I’d just had seemed. My bed was soaked in sweat, as if I had just run a marathon. Did the dream mean something? Was my subconscious trying to communicate that however important running might be in my life it is far more important for me to help others? My mind then wondered back to one of the most fulfilling, happiest times of my life. I was at university in Australia when I, together with my wife, organised a charity golf event for a young boy dying from Leukaemia. Together we managed to raise US$18,500 and I remember realising at the time that this was what I was born to do. I tried to get back to sleep, but all I could do was reflect on the message from my dream.

            At 6am I drove to Bellagio for its world famous Easter brunch. I then spent the rest of the morning visiting various running and cycling stores to buy equipment for my first ever triathlon on the island of Bali on 23 June. By the time I was finished I was tired. It had been a long day. But I had booked a 21km run around Red Rock Canyon at 4pm. Because I had not had much sleep the night before I considered calling Las Vegas Running Tour to cancel. As I picked up the phone I realised that I was making up excuses for backing out. Winners never lose and losers never win. I put down the phone and told myself to just go for it. I also promised myself that I would not use being tired as an excuse for not performing to the best of my abilities with my running guide, Jimmy.

            I met up with Jimmy, my running guide, at the Red Rock Casino at 3.30 in the afternoon. I was instantly struck with how positive he was and how full of energy. We clicked immediately and it felt like we had known each other forever. We arrived at Red Rock Canyon, with its impressive sandstone rock formations, at 4pm and started our desert run. It was immediately obvious that Jimmy was extremely fit as he attacked the hills at

            Jimmy & Nick at the Red Rock

            full tilt. He told me that so far in his life he had completed seven Iron Man competitions. Impressed I asked him how he had managed to complete so many of these extremely physically gruelling triathlons. He replied that it was all down to a great deal of hard work and self-discipline. I then pressed him further and asked whether he felt he applied this hard work and discipline to other areas of his life. The look on his face told me that he had realised that he did not. It was obvious that Jimmy didn’t lack ambition because he told me that he had a dream of expanding his business, just that he was not sure what action to take to make the dream a reality.

            I know the only way to achieve something is to create a solid plan and then work towards it, every day, without getting distracted. I explained to Jimmy that having a vague idea that he would like to grow his business was a bit like preparing for an Iron Man by going out for a run every now and then. We talked some more and decided that my new fiend should start by educating himself. I told him I would jot down the names of a couple of books I thought he might enjoy by self-help experts Brian Tracy and Anthony Robbins. We

            The books Jimmy purchased. Little did I know at the time I recommended them that I would meet the author of one of them just a few days later. The Law of Attraction in Action!

            continued to chat and our run around the canyon went well. We arrived back at the car park in just under two-and-a-half hours.

            Jimmy checked his watch and told me that we had completed 20km. I may have been exhausted, but I had planned to complete the half-marathon distance of 21km. I told Jimmy this, and with a wry smile he suggested a few laps of the car park. We must have looked like a pair of madmen to onlookers, but I didn’t care. We finished 21km as I had set out to do in 2 hours and 34 minutes. I was hot, tired and extremely happy. The run was perfect preparation both mentally and physically for the week ahead.

            The reason I was in Las Vegas was to attend the three-day Zappos Culture Boot Camp. It started on Tuesday morning and is geared towards training leaders to create and maintain positive culture changes in the workplace.

            The camp is the brainchild of Tony Hsieh, the man behind shoe and clothing retailer

            Tony, 39 years old and Nick, 37 years old, having a chat in his "Delivering Happiness" bus. Tony sold Zappos to Amazon for 1.2 billion dollars which made me realize that I just have two years to go before I also should be a dollar billionaire. Got to think BIG!

   and author of New York Times bestseller, ‘Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose’. I joined my colleague Andru and 36 other business professionals from a number of different industries, but mainly ecommerce. It was an incredible experience to spend time at the offices of the online shoe giant that was set up in 1999 and then sold to for USD 1.2 billion a decade later.

            At Zappos we were taught how to better create a vision and core values, improve human resources and recruiting, develop core culture changes, offer better service to customers, better coaching and training sessions to our staff and broaden our goals. We also had the chance to visit the Fremont East neighbourhood of the city where Tony has set up various projects aimed at revitalising this part of downtown Vegas. It was then time to see Tony’s apartment and have a Q&A session with the man himself. I was like a child in a toy store because we were discussing topics that I am truly passionate about.

            Nick had a CULTURE chock at Zappos Las Vegas

            By the end my hands were aching because of all the notes I had taken, and I am now keen to begin planning how to adopt the ideas and create an even greater culture in Sophie Paris.

            The culmination of the Boot Camp was a Zappos family All-Hands Meeting and Happy Hour attended by all 1200 Zappos employees. The gathering was full of energy and laughter, but my biggest surprise was still to come. Tony introduced the final guest speaker of the day who is one of my all time heroes – the business guru and self-help author Anthony Robbins. Seeing him live has long been on my list of 100 things to do before I die. It was also one of my top 10 personal development goals for 2013. Hearing him speak made me realise how important it is to visualise and write down very clear goals, or as author of ‘The Secret’ Rhoda Byrnes puts it: ‘Ask, Believe, Receive’. I do not believe it is simply down to luck that I keep fulfilling my dreams.You can see the last 20 seconds on his presentation here. This is the level of energy I have at the moment by the way!

            Before heading to the airport on Friday, I had another chance to meet up with Jimmy. While in Las Vegas I’d had some time to reflect on our first meeting and made a list of recommended reading and some action points for him to consider. I am very much looking forward to staying in touch with my new friend and watching him turn his dreams and

            Jimmy & Nick discussing goals at Wynn Casino by the pool

            goals into reality. I received an email from him a few days ago with a photo of four of the books I had recommended attached. I strongly believe that Jimmy has taken his first step towards a more successful, fulfilling and happier life. Buying the books is like signing up to compete in a marathon or triathlon. He has paid the entry fee and now needs to discipline himself to set aside the time to train by reading every day, create a plan for the future and put that plan into action.

            I would like to send special thanks you to all the new friends that I met at the Zappos Boot-Camp, especially Andrew Quinn and Kristen from HubSpot and yes you play the Trooper very well Andrew! Nora Crivello from Westak and Bob, Debbie and Richard from Echo 360, do not mention the Moose! And also Jonathan Wolske the Culture Evangelist of Zappos Insight, you really made the House of Blues go through the roof on Thursday night! Was

            Nick and Jack having a cigar in Las Vegas

            also great to meet Jack Nicholson my all time favorite actor over a beer and cigar (although it might not have been the real one). Had a blast with Sylvie and Natalie, thanks for the Wynn pool pass and green tea Chocolate girls. The trip to Las Vegas has helped me believe even more strongly that my purpose is to inspire and empower others – something that I commit to always do.

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              No Excuses in Sihanoukville!

              Losers make excuses, winners make it happen.

              On Sunday 10 March, just 13 weeks after completing my first ever half marathon, I finished my second 21km race in less than two hours. The main aim of the first race was simply for

              Nick at the start of the 21km Race in Sihanoukville

              me to stay the course, to make it round even if I had to crawl over the finishing-line. The goal for the second was to break the two-hour barrier, something I did with several minutes to spare.

              It was important for me to set a very specific target for my second run, and it had to be an improvement on just staying the distance. From the outset I told myself, and everybody around me, that I had to get round in a specific time. That was the thing I focused upon, that was my motivation for getting out and training, and the main reason I achieved my goal.

              Planning and setting specific goals and targets is essential for anybody who wants to succeed. For me it is not good enough just aspiring to be fitter, losing weight or eating a better diet, I have to rewrite my goals everyday in order to remain focused and committed to what I am trying to achieve. This is something I was taught by motivational speaker and author Brian Tracy – writing your goals down makes them real in a physical sense.

              Looking back over the weeks of training I did for my second half marathon I saw that I had written down: “I completed my half marathon in less than two hours on March 10, 2013” more than 50 times. I even wrote the message to myself just before the race, and by telling myself I had already won, I managed to remain focused. All I then had to do was go through with it physically – something that is so much easier if the mental process has already been taken care of.

              I would advise anyone who is perhaps struggling to stay focused on what they want to accomplish to begin every new day by using a pen and paper to jot down their objectives, even if the goals are the same as the day before, as this helps to constantly reaffirm what needs to be achieved. And these goals can be both short- and long-term.

              I will continue to do this, not just so I can keep up my training schedule, but so that I can keep other goals in my life in focus. This method has now helped me to safely run two half marathons in three months and I intend to keep adding to these goals and making them more ambitious, while making sure I have a proper plan to achieve them.

              Jotting down an objective on a piece of paper is a start, but turning that ambition into reality requires planning and ignoring the temptation to make excuses for ourselves. We are all tempted to take short-cuts in life in order to more easily get what we want, but it is only by disciplining ourselves that we can realise our long-term goals. As the late American entrepreneur and personal achievement philosopher Jim Rohn said: “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.”

              However, even with the most careful planning, we must not forget that life still has the ability to throw out the odd surprise or two. The half marathon took place in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, a place I visited 13 years ago. I arrived on the day of the race and was surprised that the peaceful beach village I remembered was actually surrounded by steep hills. Although I hadn’t expected a completely flat course, my heart started racing. I had been training on the level streets of Ho Chi Minh City where I had carefully worked out I could manage each kilometre in just under 5 minutes and 40 seconds. This would bring me over the finishing line in just less than two hours. But how was I going to manage this over hilly terrain!?

              The problem was almost solved for me because in my panic I lost my race tag. Without this I would be disqualified and my dream would be over. I rushed to the registration office, and to my relief the organisers agreed to issue me with a replacement. I was also extremely tired because I had only managed to get a couple of hours sleep the night before when the advice before a race like this is to get at least eight. So I arrived at the start line stressed, tired and nervous. The race was also delayed by 15 minutes, and each of those minutes felt like a lifetime.

              At 6.15am the gun was fired, and we were off. I gained some confidence after finishing the first kilometre in just five minutes and was pleased that I managed to find my stride over the next few. However the hilly terrain quickly began to wear me down and I have to admit there were a few times when I wanted to just give up. Kilometre number 14 was my slowest. With a third of the race still to complete my time over 1,000 metres slipped to six minutes leaving me doubtful that I would be able to keep the pace I needed to finish in less than two hours.

              I dug in and fought on eventually making it over the line in 56 minutes and 33 seconds, well under my target!

              I have wondered how I was able to achieve my goal when everything looked like it was never going to happen before and during the race. I think the answer is that it was down to the fact that I had been telling myself for weeks that failing was not an option. I could have used the unexpected hills an excuse to give up at any point, but I have taught myself to be far more disciplined than I once was, and that sort of excuse is no longer acceptable to me.

              I now understand Jacqueline Gareau, Boston Marathon champion, who once said: “The body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be

              My body says no but I keep pushing. With a strong will we can do more than we think.

              strong. You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy…It is not age; it is not diet. It is the will to succeed.”

              That is not to say that I have not benefitted immensely from working with some top trainers, attending running clinics, consulting doctors and nutritionists and getting in contact with other marathon runners. I have also been lucky enough to take advantage of the latest technology. I cannot recommend the running app Endomondo Sports Tracker highly enough!

              My next big physical challenge will be the Oland marathon in my home country of Sweden. In November last year I added running a full marathon to my list of goals before I turn 40. However, my fitness level has increased quicker than I ever could have expected, so I have decided to go for it in July. I know the distance will be hard on me, especially my feet and knees, and I know that I still need to lose some weight. As writer and runner Hal Higdon puts it: “The difference between the mile and the marathon is the difference between burning your fingers with a match and being slowly roasted over hot coals.”

              Tired but happy after the race. Looking forward to my next physical achievement.

              As those who have read my previous blogs will know, I was informed after twice rupturing my Achilles tendon that I would never be able to run again. Since the day I was told this by a doctor I have made it my goal to complete a full marathon. I am sure that when I am 30km into the Oland race in a few months time I will want to give up, I will want to find an excuse to throw in the towel. But the only thing I will regret is if I do not try. When I am 80-years-old I want to look back at my life and say I crossed that 42 kilometre line and remember it as one of the greatest physical achievements of my life.

              Finally I would like to say thank you to my lovely wife Sofi and son Percy for all their patience and understanding while I have been at the gym or out running rather than spending time at home with them. Thanks to Nutrifort Gym for the fitness services, and especially to my personal trainers Stephane and Greg, and to Phil for his great nutritional advice. Also a huge thanks to Matt and Ulrik my running buddies. You always pushed me when I was on the verge of giving up, and I hope you don’t mind that I pushed you back!

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                Failure before Success

                Many people came up to me after my recent Big Show presentations and told me that I must write down my life story of failures and successes – upon their request below is a brief summary of a first draft:

                It was on 1 May, 1975, a bright spring day in Sweden, that against almost all odds, I was born. It was International Workers’ Day, the day that marks the 1886 Haymarket Massacre in Chicago, and a brass band was marching past the hospital window. The day pointed to me perhaps becoming a labourer in my later life – someone who is not afraid of hard work.

                Failure Before Success

                I began life with few advantages.  I grew up in Nybro, a small country town with a population of just 20,000. My family was typically working class. My father, Hans, worked in construction and Anita, my mother, stayed at home to care for me. I did not attend kindergarten or nursery school like the other children. At the age of three the birth of my sister, Sara, meant I was no longer the sole focus of my parents’ attention, but life was fun. The house was always full of happiness, love and laughter and I enjoyed the freedom my parents’ afforded me. At the age of six I began to attend pre-school. This was a small shock as I was not really used to being told what to do. All of a sudden I was in a class with 15 other children being told what to do all day, every day. I can remember that even at a young age, I did not appreciate being dictated to. I wanted to do things in my own way. My parents quickly realized that I was not just another child. I had a strong will and challenged everything I was told.

                It was at the age of 10 that life began to get really exciting. I found out that I was incredibly good at making money. I began to sell lottery tickets, my sister’s cartoon books, my mother’s flower plants, bird food, Christmas magazines, Sunday newspapers – anything I could lay my hands on. By the age of 12 I had become one of the country’s best paid sales people at Hem, a direct sales company selling magazines. By 13 I had started my own business selling computers and video games out of my father’s garage – just like Bill Gates! It was 1985 and I was bringing in more than USD 1000 each month – more than any of the other children my age could ever dream of making.

                I was riding high when, at 14, my parents decided to move to Kalmar, a larger city. I was unhappy to leave my high school friends behind and disappointed to have to give up my successful computer business. The move affected me deeply, and almost overnight I went from being a good student to being one of the worst performers in the class. I became distracted, got sidetracked from my passion for sales and business, and ended up hanging around with other poorly-performing students. I began racing motorbikes, smoking, drinking and staying out late with my friends.

                At the age of 15 I was required to choose a major for my final two years at high school. I went to my parents for advice on which subject to choose. I needed something that would provide me with the skills and qualifications that would ensure I would get a job after graduating. Because my father was in construction, he told me my best bet was training to be a construction painter as he had connections and would be able to help me get a job.

                Two years after moving to Kalmar I was training to become a professional painter. I was settling down, had made a group of more suitable friends and was concentrating more on my school assignments. I was even making plans for living independently from my family and making my own money.

                Then disaster struck. During my final year at high school a fire ripped through our house and burnt it to the ground. We lost everything. My family had to start over. The four of us moved into a small hotel room and I was devastated by the fact my parents had lost everything they owned. My mother was even fired from her sewing job because her bosses thought she would no longer be able to focus on both her work and building our home from scratch. Although I was incredibly thankful no one I loved was hurt in the fire, I recall feeling strangely embarrassed about what had happened and started to lose my self confidence.

                I graduated high school at 18 and immediately began work as a construction painter. I worked as many hours as I could to earn as much money as possible and a regular pay packet meant I could move into my own apartment. I also managed to put money aside for holidays. However, this meant working all the hours I could for 11 months of the year in exchange for one month enjoying life. Although my independence was helping me to regain my self confidence and get my life back on track I did not have the time to concentrate on my personal development or learn new skills.

                I was 19 when I crashed my motorbike into a car. The accident resulted in severe whiplash to my neck. Although I was able to return to work after a few days of rest I was still in pain. I continued to work as a painter for the next two years but found that I was taking more and more time off work as a result of my injury. In the end I was told by my doctor that the problem was not going to get better as long as I remained in a physically demanding job like painting. He advised me to change career. This was a huge blow because painting was the only work I was qualified to do. But sometimes the only way to change our situation is to be forced to do it. Later I realized that it was the best thing that could have happened as leaving manual labour behind forced me to examine other options. I decided to revisit the sales skills I had developed when I was younger.

                My first step was to apply for administrative jobs in the painting industry including being a supervisor. However, my limited experience in the field meant my applications were rejected. I tried various office positions, but again I was rejected. Eventually I was contacted by a Norwegian oil and gas company looking for painting instructors for a large project in Dubai. They were interested in me because I had qualifications in epoxy painting and other dangerous jobs. Unfortunately I was rejected because my level of spoken English wasn’t up to scratch.

                By now I was running low on money as well as self-confidence. My sick pay allowance was not enough to live on and I decided I had to do something drastic. I made the decision to return to school and was accepted onto an adult high school education course in order to improve my grades and enrol in mathematics and English, subjects I had not studied at high school. At adult high school, most of my grades were very good, but I was still performing poorly in my English classes. I knew that in order to get a good job I would need to do something about my language skills.

                I applied for a three-month English course at Bond University on Australia’s Gold Coast. This was a big step for me as university had never been a topic of discussion when I was growing up. For me and my peers life was supposed to be about getting a job and pulling in a salary, not getting a degree.

                Having completed the English course at Bond I decided to stay on and study for a Bachelor’s degree and then a Master’s. It was tough going and my English skills continued to let me down. There were several times when I thought I had made the wrong decision to continue my education. However, my grades began to pick up and it was while I was completing my studies that I was approached by a family in the fashion industry.

                I was offered the opportunity of becoming a partner in their business. I accepted, quit university and moved back to Europe. Unfortunately attempts to try and develop the business in London failed and I returned to Sweden, aged 25, broke and homeless. Seven years after moving away I was back living with my parents.

                My self-confidence was at rock bottom and I regret to say I even entertained thoughts of ending it all. I began painting again and after a few months was earning enough money to allow me to move into a windowless room the size of a cupboard in my friend’s apartment, but at least I was no longer dependent on my parents. I disliked my job since it gave me pain in my neck and back and spent instead too much time at the pub. Living day to day was making me lose hope when, one night, I met a girl in a club. Her name was Sofi, the girl who would help me get my life back on track and one day become my wife.

                We decided to use what money we had to spend three months travelling through Southeast Asia together. After returning to Sweden I got back in contact with Bond University. Sofi persuaded me of the importance of finishing my degree and I was lucky enough to be offered a second chance. She was also able to transfer her university course from Sweden, and in 2001 we both boarded a plane for Australia. More determined than ever to succeed I threw myself into my studies, received a scholarship and graduated aged 29 as the top student in both my both my Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and Master’s Degree in Public Relations. I also began working for the university marketing department, helping them to recruit students. My self confidence was riding at a new high.

                It was around this time that I came across a news story that affected me deeply. A seven-year-old Australian boy who was battling leukaemia had been robbed. I wanted to help and as President of the University golf club I was able to organise two charity golf days to help replace the AUD 300 that had been stolen. The second fundraiser alone pulled in more than USD 18,500! For this work I was awarded the prestigious “2004 Golden State Award for Excellence” by the Queensland government. As well as having an extraordinary impact on the local community, the project thought me that by using my leadership skills I could make a real difference.

                Having a degree really changed things for me in terms of getting a job. I accepted a position in Public Relations with a company in Bangkok, Thailand. Unfortunately life in the city was not easy for Sofi. She was in a poorly-paid job and really wanted to work in a more professional environment in a western city. She accepted a position at a leading auditing firm in London where she could also study to become a certified accountant. Being apart from each other was far from ideal, so I quit my job and joined my wife.

                I was 31 when I arrived in London. Although having to once again adjust to a new environment was stressful, and I still felt at times that my English was letting me down, I was delighted to find that instead of being flatly refused when applying for work I was being asked in for interviews. Following a stint freelancing for electronics giant Philips I secured a full time job with a PR agency. Sofi and I now both had good careers and were living a good life in one of the greatest cities in the world.

                Then one morning, while playing squash, everything suddenly changed. The cracking sound of a shotgun being fired, extreme pain and the feeling my leg had gone through the floor of the court meant my Achilles tendon had snapped. I was rushed to hospital in agony and told I would have to spend at least eight weeks with a cast on my foot. I then had to spend months on crutches learning to walk again. This made my work almost impossible. I was in business development and supposed to be out networking and meeting as many people as possible. The inevitable result was that my meetings became fewer, I was not pulling in enough new clients, and I was politely asked to resign. I found myself cast into the unknown once more.

                Luckily Swedish cosmetics company Oriflame was searching for Future Managing Directors at the time and I was invited to apply. After a number of tough interviews I beat thousands of other applicants and offered a position based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. My Achilles was recovering well, my walking was improving and I was excited about my new job.

                Oriflame was keen to get me started as soon as possible and asked me to fly to Nepal to attend a regional MD meeting. In April 2007 I boarded a flight from London to Kathmandu and a new start. But things are never that easy. I was in my hotel room doing my Achilles exercises when I fell to the floor in pain. My tendon had snapped again. I was supposed to be returning to London to pack up my belongings and move to a new life in Vietnam. Instead I was lying on a hotel room floor in Nepal unable to move. What was I going to tell my new company? Should I even mention this? I had left my crutches in London so I phoned reception and asked for a wheelchair.

                Back in London I was examined by a doctor who told me my Achilles tendon had completely ruptured and that I would need major surgery. After a week of agonizing pain I was in theatre where the doctor told me my knee would be put in plaster after the operation. When I woke up I was surprised to find that not just my knee, but my whole leg from my toes to my thigh was in a cast. When I was able to talk to a doctor he told me the severity of the rupture had made the surgery complicated. The surgeon had cut my leg open from my heel to the back of my knee. I was told my Achilles tendon was now shorter than before and I would have to undergo a lengthy period of rehabilitation. I was also told it was unlikely that I would be able to walk on my own again for at least a year and that I would never again be able to run. I explained that I had to move to Vietnam in two weeks time and he told me it would be impossible for me to take a flight that soon, since my leg would be swollen and infected and the air pressure at altitude could trigger a blood clot. Flying could kill me.

                After three days in hospital I was allowed to go home. As well as worrying about my leg I was fretting over what I should tell work. I rewrote an email over and over explaining the situation, which I never sent. Instead I called the hospital and asked for an appointment with my surgeon.

                I explained to him that there was no way I was not going to be in Vietnam in May to start my new job. I then asked him to tell me how to minimise the travel risks. He called in another consultant, a specialist who also tried to persuade me to delay the journey. However I was adamant that I would be on the flight in a fortnight and asked again how I could minimize the risk of a blood clot. He, quite rightly, told me that as a doctor he could not offer advice on what would be a life threatening risk. Frustrated I returned home and booted up Google. I discovered that it was important to keep my leg elevated and drink a great deal of water. The advice looked sound so I emailed my boss and told him I would be arriving in Ho Chi Minh City as scheduled.

                I called the airline to book my flight, but was dismayed to find that they would not allow me to board so soon after surgery with my whole leg in plaster. I was told I could not fly unless I was able to demonstrate that I could move my leg, something that is obviously impossible in a full cast.

                One of the ideas I came up with to solve the problem was to saw my cast into two halves and link the pieces together with Velcro. I would then be able to separate the halves when on the plane and move my leg. To my astonishment the hospital agreed to help me do this! I could now move my leg. I double checked the rest of the airlines rules on passengers travelling with injuries and booked a one-way ticket out of London. I didn’t inform them of my injury, intending to prove I could move my limb if questioned. The days leading up to the flight were tense. I knew the airline still might not let me fly. Or worse, I could develop deep vein thrombosis (a potentially fatal blood clot in my leg).

                I arrived at check-in on crutches with my cast hidden by baggy jeans. My heart was racing and I was praying no one would stop me. In the end the only question I was asked was if I wanted a wheelchair. I gratefully accepted. Settling into a flat-bed seat I thought to myself I had made it. However, I now had to survive the flight. A stewardess helped me elevate my leg with pillows and gave me water to drink. The flight was one of the longest I have ever taken. The 12 hours to Bangkok felt like a month! When the captain announced we were approaching the airport my heart began to race and I broke out in a cold sweat. The descent is the most dangerous part of the flight as the change in air pressure can release any blood clot that has formed. I removed my cast and began to massage my swollen leg. I admit that this was one of the loneliest and scariest moments of my entire life. Time seemed to stand still. The relief of eventually touching down was enormous, although I knew I had to go through it all again on the flight from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City.

                I arrived safely in the Vietnam heat and turned my thoughts to getting my Velcro-strapped cast replaced with something more sensible. At a hospital in the city my cast was removed and the doctor informed me that my leg had become heavily infected. The stress of the flight, the air pressure and my makeshift cast had caused part of my foot to become infected too and I needed urgent surgery. I woke up with a brand new cast on my leg, relieved but wondering whether the whole thing was ever going to end. It was a Sunday and I was due to start my new job the very next day. I arrived, said nothing, and focused on giving 100% to my new assignment.

                Vietnam is hot. Getting around in 35 degree heat on crutches with a leg in plaster is challenging to say the least. As Area Sales Manager I was required to travel to events all over the country. However I loved what I was doing. Unfortunately, it was not just my leg that was suffering but my health. My blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol levels were too high and I was rapidly gaining weight. I was also having problems with my boss who seemed to be constantly having other opinions than me. It was only a matter of time before I was asked to resign – and I did.

                The disappointment of having to quit a job I enjoyed coincided with the joy of being told by Sofi that I was going to be a father. Unfortunately she was also about to come to the end of her job contract. Suddenly we were to become a family with no job, no income, no social security and no medical insurance for the baby. I panicked and my head was in a spin.

                Remembering that my boss at the PR firm I had worked for in Bangkok had once talked about setting up an agency in Vietnam, I gave him a call. He agreed to fly over for a meeting. We both agreed it would be a good idea with him taking care of the capital investment and me investing the time.  My home living room became my office and we recruited three staff. In less than half-a-year we had a number of clients and were already breaking even. However, during the Chinese New Year everything suddenly went quiet. My baby was due and my PR company had no new business. My partner and investor called to tell me I would have to carry on without his financial support. I was about to become a family – I had to find a paid job!

                A few weeks earlier a headhunter had asked me if I was interested in a PR consultant position that had opened up in HCMC. I called back and was told the job was still available if I wanted it. I accepted the offer despite low pay, but enough to provide a financial cushion and on 20 February 2009 our beautiful son Percy was born. Becoming a father is not easy, but for me the situation seemed more difficult because our families were back in Sweden. We had to work everything out for ourselves. I had to return to work a day after Percy was born and was feeling burnt out. My blood pressure was high, I was stressed and I felt unhealthy. I was struggling to make ends meet and the fourth day of my son’s life was celebrated by us moving into a smaller, cheaper house.

                But there is always something around the corner. I was contacted by another headhunter about a job as Business Development Manager with International SOS. They were offering a better salary, housing allowance and medical insurance. How could I refuse? I loved the job. I had a fantastic boss, nice colleagues and was popular. Almost immediately I was getting excellent results and smashing all my new business targets. This job was a gift and I was not going to leave unless something much better came along. And eventually it did.

                Sophie Paris contacted me out of the blue in December 2009, looking for a General Director to set up the company in Vietnam. It sounded like a great challenge, and one that I was up for. I have now been working with them for three years. It has been an amazing journey and I have been responsible for everything from getting the business license, sourcing and renovating locations, recruiting and training the team of 100 staff in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Danang. This job has completely changed my life.

                Since joining Sophie Paris my self confidence has returned along with my pride, and these days I feel great. I have lost weight and completed my first half marathon through the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia in just 2 hours and six minutes in December 2012 – and I was told by doctors that I never would be able to run again! This race was a stepping stone to my ultimate goal of running a full marathon, something I have promised myself I will do before I turn 40.

                At the end of last year I also finally overcame my fear of speaking in public. A few months earlier I was approached by Quach Tuan Khanh, widely recognised as Vietnam’s top public speaker. He asked if I would be interested in joining him as a key speaker at the Big Show, the largest public speaking event in Vietnam last year. Although the idea was daunting, and I had arranged to spend Christmas with my family in Sweden, I knew the chance was just too big to turn down. I cancelled my travel plans and started researching topics I felt qualified to present. Together Quach Tuan Khanh and I decided my subject should be ‘Failure Before Success’. I am no stranger to adversity and I have had my fair share of failures, as you have read. However, I have always tried to rise above them, learn from them, and turn those failures into success.

                It was after my final major presentation to a crowd of 800 in HCMC that I realised I was facing my fear of speaking to large numbers of strangers and winning. Following my talk I was thrilled to be asked to pose for photos with members of the audience and sign autographs. I was also asked to sign books. They even asked me to write down my story and thus this piece of writing. Many of the people I met on the tour were moved to tears and thanked me for inspiring them. The feeling was incredible and I have had endless emails, phone calls and texts since. I cannot describe how proud I feel to have been an inspiration to others or how thankful I am not to have let my fear of public speaking beat me.

                Life is good. I enjoy my job and am healthier than ever and firmly focused on the future. What life has ultimately taught is that you sometimes have to fail before you succeed.

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                  Overcoming Fear at the Big Show

                  The Cover Slide for my presentation at the Big Show

                  A key factor of personal development and growth for any of us is overcoming our fears. For me 2012 was a year of breaking down barriers and ended with me finally overcoming my fear of speaking in public, something that used to terrify me.

                  In fact, the thought of public speaking is something that sends a chill down the spine of even the most confident individual. In his book ‘…and Death Came Third!: The Definitive Guide to Networking and Speaking in Public’ Andy Lopata refers to a New York Times Survey on Social Anxiety that listed people’s biggest fears. Perhaps surprisingly, ahead of the fear of death in third place and walking into a room full of strangers on second place came speaking in public.

                  I, like so many others, can remember anxious, sleepless nights before having to give presentations in front of my high school peers. The fear of making a fool of myself was overwhelming. At university I decided to confront the problem and signed up for a public speaking class. I gradually became more confident and must have appeared more at ease than I felt as I achieved the top grade in the subject and walked away with the award for most creative presentation.

                  It was a few months ago that I was approached by Quach Tuan Khanh, widely recognised as Vietnam’s top public speaker. He asked if I would be interested in joining him as a key speaker at the Big Show, the largest public speaking event in Vietnam last year. Although the idea was daunting, and I had arranged to spend Christmas with my family in Sweden,

                  Nick presenting at the Big Show in HCMC

                  I knew the chance was just too big to turn down. I cancelled my travel plans and started researching topics I felt qualified to present. Together Quach Tuan Khanh and I decided my subject should be ‘Failure Before Success’. I am no stranger to adversity and I have had my fair share of failures. However, I have always tried to rise above them, learn from them, and turn those failures into success.

                  During my time with Oriflame and Sophie Paris Vietnam I have delivered hundreds of talks, training seminars and lectures; the largest of which was in a stadium filled with 3,000 people. However, I was now being asked to speak for one-and-a-half hours in front of business professionals. Each was paying US$60 to come and hear what I had to say, a significant portion of their monthly income. This was serious and I knew I would have to prepare and practice thoroughly if I was going to pull it off.

                  Nick with the most famous speakers in Vietnam

                  Throughout December I toured Vietnam with a number of well known public speakers addressing some 1,700 business professionals in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Can Tho.

                  It was after my final major presentation to a crowd of 800 in HCMC that I realised I was facing my fear of speaking to large numbers of strangers and winning. Following my talk I was thrilled to be asked to pose for photos with members of the audience and sign autographs. I was even asked to sign books. Many of the people I met on the tour were moved to tears and thanked me for inspiring them. The feeling was incredible and I have had endless emails, phone calls and texts since. I cannot describe how proud I feel to have been an inspiration to others or how thankful I am not to have let my fear of public speaking beat me.  I am looking forward to more presentations and to further inspire and help other people overcoming their fears. As Brian Tracy puts it “Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help other. Unsuccessful people are always asking. What’s in it for me”.

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                    Doomed to Die Young

                    I may be doomed to die young. This fact was made clear to me recently after my 61-year-old father had a heart attack. Fortunately he survived, but I know that heart problems are often hereditary. So I telephoned my grandfather in Sweden last week to ask him if our family has a history of heart problems. I was shocked by what he told me.

                    His own father died of a heart attack at the age of 49 and I was stunned to learn that three of his brothers and one of his sisters had also died of heart attacks when they were even younger. Even my grandfather, who is 81, recently underwent heart surgery. I now want to understand how he has survived against the odds and perhaps more fully understand how I can improve my own chances of avoiding the same fate as so many members of my family.

                    My father suffered his heart attack on 1 October this year while he was at the gym. He was rushed to hospital where surgeons performed bypass surgery. Fortunately he made a speedy recovery and is now back on his feet. But why did he have a heart attack? He does not have an unhealthy lifestyle; he eats well and exercises regularly.

                    He suffered a heart attack because of his genetic make-up. His body is conditioned to suffer heart problems. The only reason he survived is because he is fit. I have since been studying the subject and have learned that I am also at risk. I now have to decide how to prepare for something that may be inevitable.

                    At the time my father had his heart attack I was training for my first half-marathon. This meant I was already in an intensive fitness regime. The news that my father had become ill further spurred me on to stick to my training, and on 2 December I completed the race.

                    Brian Tracy taught me the importance of discipline, something that I could not have completed the half-marathon without knowing. He says:

                    “The ability to discipline yourself to delay gratification in the short term in order to enjoy greater rewards in the long term, is the indispensable prerequisite for success.”

                    I left Sweden 14 years ago, and since then have not remained in close contact with my grandfather. This was the first time we had spoken properly in over a year but I needed to pick up the phone and learn more about my family’s medical history. What he told me convinced me that I have to live a healthier life. I know that we will all die some day, but I also know that we can put that day off for as long as possible by getting more exercise and eating a healthier diet.

                    The combination of my father’s heart attack and the conversation I had with my grandfather gave me the push I needed to commit to a lifestyle change. I have since read books and articles on how a healthier lifestyle can help to prevent heart problems.

                    One of those books is ‘The Zone’ by Barry Sears. In it he describes how to revolutionise one’s life plan, how to lose weight and how to get the body and mind back into balance. From chapter one I knew that telephoning my grandfather had probably saved my life, and I am now getting the information I need to live a longer and happier life.

                    Like me, there is a history of heart attacks in Barry’s family. He explains that he is a genetic time-bomb and that his body is programmed in a way that makes it more likely he will suffer from heart disease when he is older. It was a shock to find out that I am the same. However, because I now know this I can face the fact and make the difficult choices that need to be made.

                    In the couple of weeks since completing the half-marathon I have found my discipline slipping. Although I have still been exercising several times a week, my diet is not as healthy as it was when I was training for the race. It is also Christmas, which doesn’t help!

                    My grandfather’s warning has pushed me back on track. I will be fitter, I will lose more weight, and will gain more strength. I have already signed up for my next half-marathon on 10 March 2013 in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. I know that if I am to complete the race in a good time I will have to commit to regular training sessions, healthy food and almost no alcohol. I did it before, so I can do it again!

                    So, why do I push myself so hard to be fit? In the short term I just want to feel healthy. I now have more energy, I am happier and I can perform to a higher level. In the medium term my goal is to run a full marathon before my 40th birthday; and in the longer term, I want to live full life and be around to see my son graduate from university.

                    I have learned that it is only when we are pushed to the edge of a cliff that we are forced to change. It is only after knowing failure that we can decide on what needs to be changed in order to win. For me my father’s heart attack and what I was told by my grandfather were a stark warning. I am now determined to take control of my own destiny by changing the things I need to change now.

                    Fat before fit. Drunk before sober. Unhappy before happy. It seems like that we have to fail before we win.

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