Ted Jackson does not strike you as a man who would run 7 marathons in 7 days on ALL seven continents, but that is part of his charm. This is no ordinary man, housemaster or father. Charismatic, cheeky and in his own words a “chunky monkey”, who still manages to pull off stunts that are difficult to conceive of, yet alone achieve. Always the “class clown”, Ted has set an example consistently throughout his life without ever taking himself too seriously, and this is what I’ve learnt from him.
1. Great things have small beginnings and big teams
It is probably scripted: his brother suffers a heart attack, father has a triple heart bypass and wife is diagnosed with MS. Ted has seen, felt and gone through it all and he humbly gives credit to his family for everything he has done. He rightly acknowledges everything he does is because of and for them. It was during a dinner late one night with friends, after this life-changing wake up call, that he stumbled on the topic of the New York marathon and Ted signed up that evening with no training, little thought and serious ambition. His story is the archetypal journey with the smallest of beginnings late one night, which led to the greatest of achievements. He admits that he had no idea where this was going to take him and little did he know that he would: cycle the route of the Tour de France, run the North Pole Marathon, run the Marathon Des Sables and then run 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continents. That seemingly insignificant night has created a movement that has not only helped thousands, but also raised hundreds of thousands for charity. So, remind yourself that how you do anything is how you do everything and remember that great things always start with a small passing thought, or comment or idea. So hold onto them and…
2. Start before you are ready
For us perfectionists out there, myself definitely included, planning and preparation are our drugs, but also the number one things stopping us from taking action and luring us into procrastination. One of the hardest things to do is start before you are ready, because annoyingly the cliché that “you can never be ready” rings true. If you are going to do something, do it now. Ted has done this consistently. He signs up before he has trained, commits before he has time to think and ultimately never gives doubt the time of day. He has built this skill from nothing and it is one of his greatest attributes. We can all practice this too, but by starting small and building the muscle. Start before you are ready. Get out of bed before you want to. Ask for help before you can script the entire conversation. Commit when you know you need to. Do the work, now.
After a serious crash on the first day of his Tour De France reenactment, Ted remarked that he had to take the whole three-week course checkpoint by checkpoint, especially given his lack of training! During the North Pole Marathon it was mile by mile. During the 7/7/7 it was minute by minute. You set yourself up to succeed if you break down the goal. Chunk it up. Start small, start now.
3. What Next?
A true sign of someone who is taking on something great for the right reasons (Read Simon Sinek’s Start with the Why), is if they don’t rest on their laurels and are always searching for the next opportunity with open eyes. What I have learnt from Ted, is that he loves to celebrate and he understands that it is that feeling which motivates him. Yet, the big difference between him and others, is that he doesn’t live in the past and let it define his future. It is about the now for him. The journey. The never-ending path which you create and pave yourself. It is this devotion to the next brick in the road, which has defined his past success and will continue to serve him. Ted knows his “why”. In fact, he has such clarity as to why he is doing what he is doing, that the “how” he is going to do it inevitably fits into place and the journey continues.
“With a strong enough why, the how will sort itself out.”
The one thing that strikes me most about Ted is his authenticity. Although this word gets thrown around for the wrong reasons and far too often, there is no other way to describe him. His persona has been labelled a cover and shield by the naysayers, but having spent a few months with him, it is true that quite the opposite is the case. He does not sing in the minibus for show, he sings so that we can all have a laugh. He does not play the clown on purpose, that is just who he is. Ted Jackson’s selflessness comes from his devotion to his own self improvement. He says that these monstrous events “open him up” to his most real emotions, his vulnerability. He truly feels every emotion that comes his way. These events are not for the fame or money, they are there so he can access another level of emotion and hence it is almost impossible not to relate to him. Ironically, the physical hardship opens up the emotional vulnerability.
5. Do it for yourself
“The funny thing” Ted says, “is that when it comes down to it, I do it for myself”
Some of you may think this is selfish and that the charity raising is all just a guise and superficial, but I suggest:
“There is no greater way to serve others than fulfilling your dreams, because it is the only when you truly commit to this journey that you can wholeheartedly give to others”
By pushing himself to his limits, Ted not only grows as a person, but he also inspires others and serves them as part of the journey. It is the most selfless thing you can do, fulfilling your dreams. Ted is also keen to point out that he doesn’t run at record speeds. He runs his own race and he finishes on his own terms.
6. Raise the stakes
When I asked him for one of the more gutting experience he’s been through, he said that it was his failing to reach day 3 of the Marathon Des Sables while his son went onto complete it, that really hit him. It was the disappointment he felt at letting others down, which hurt the most. Though, to this day he has turned it into his greatest tool. He now constantly raises the stakes to another level. He tells more and more people and raises more and more money, not only for the cause, but also as motivation.
Ted’s greatest weakness turned strength, is his pride.
Only, he does not allow it to control him, he uses it as an effective strategy. So hold yourself accountable. Raise the stakes. Use your weaknesses as leverage. (By the way, after dropping out of the Marathon Des Sables, he went onto complete the North Pole Marathon that same year!)
7. Lead without a title
The notion of titles and status and job positions physically sicken Ted. He is not one to hold back on this topic and having listened to him it is hard not to agree. Throughout his life, Ted has inadvertently led without a title. He led by example. He pulled himself out of struggles with alcohol and has and still is inspiring us all, but humbly. The fact is, Ted doesn’t need a title to lead, he doesn’t even need to be asked or told to lead. He just does. He gets up, sets and example and relates to you. His authenticity sets a precedent and is annoyingly likeable!
Before I finished up, I asked him what he wanted his legacy to be and what three truths he would tell to his children. He remarked that he’d never thought of it before. It is testament to his commitment to the present. But here they are:
- Whatever I do or say cannot make anyone do anything, I can only set an example and that’s all you guys can do.
- Very, very little actually matters. Hold on to what does.
- Every tiny, seemingly insignificant action has a consequence. So for God’s sake think a little!
To end, he said that he wanted people to say at his funeral:
“Wow, he did some amazing stuff and had a bloody good time doing it. He did it with a smile on his face and was a nice chap”
Go and support him on his page http://www.iknowtedjackson.com
Originally published at liveoutstanding.wordpress.com on January 15, 2017.