Several years back, I had an experience that I will never forget. It was a day that changed my life.
I was invited to sit down with The World’s Greatest Goal Setter, the real life Indiana Jones, John Goddard – for the very first time.
I had read about him and his famous “goals list” in one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books.
There are articles written about him in Life Magazine, National Geographic Magazine, Reader’s Digest and others, and he’s been featured in over 200 television shows!
I was fascinated by the idea of someone who could create 127 life goals and then set out on an amazing lifelong journey to achieve each and every one of them.
I knew this man was a special soul, and someone that I had to meet in my lifetime.
If you know anything about John’s goals list, you know that they are not meagre goals!
His incredible journeys and experiences have included retracing the route of Marco Polo through the Middle East, Asia and China, studying numerous primitive cultures firsthand, reading the entire collection of the Encyclopedia Britannica and the Bible from cover to cover, and climbing Mt. Everest – just to name a few.
I was deeply honoured when John invited me to his California home to sit down with him and his wife Carol in their living room, just to ‘chat’ about life and the art of goal setting.
Both he and his wife were incredibly gracious as they welcomed me into their home. I’ve seen pictures of John on his travels, and he actually does resemble Indiana Jones, with his adventurers hat and well worn khaki shirt and shorts.
But today he doesn’t look anything like the mythical figure I’ve seen, and it almost surprises me to see how regular he looks!
After agreeing to some tea from his wife, I settled down next to him and looked around his living room, which resembled a film set straight out of The Adventures of Indiana Jones, with artefacts and found treasures from his many adventures neatly placed around the room, each with their own unique story.
Suddenly, the $15 replica native mask I had in my own living room that I brought from a store seemed silly, and I vowed to replace it with found treasures from my own life adventures.
But more importantly, I vowed to have my own life adventures!
John’s number one goal was to explore the world’s largest river, the 4,220 mile long Nile.
He saw the Nile as the most important river on Earth, as it had perhaps the greatest influence on the development of civilization for over 6,000 years in the areas of astronomy, architecture, religion and agriculture.
He did indeed become the first man to explore the entire length of the world’s longest river – and on a kayak!
The was a trip so dangerous that local experts begged him not to go – they never thought he would return.
On his exploration he encountered thunderstorms, violent rapids, man-eating crocodiles, bone crushing groups of hippos, elephants who picked up his scent and even water pirates who wanted him as a meal.
Somehow, he out-paddled or out manoeuvred each challenge.
John has looked death right in the eye with over 42 (to date) life threatening experiences. He’s survived plane crashes, earthquakes, three rounds with quicksand, almost drowned twice, and had an appendicitis attack 200 miles from the nearest health care facility.
He was even bitten by a diamondback rattlesnake and lived!
You may be thinking that this guy has a death wish, but when I met him I realized the it’s the opposite that is true.
John has a deep appreciation and dominant love of life itself.
When John was diagnosed with Cancer in 1983, he felt that it was the biggest challenge he had faced so far.
He was given a one-in-ten chance of living more than 5 years. He was hit hard emotionally, became depressed and immediately wanted to retreat “to his cave”.
But those closest to him reminded him of how many pessimists he himself had met over the years that had told him, “You’ll never be able to do it. It’s impossible!”
If he had listened to them before, he would never have achieved so many of his life goals or had all of those incredible experiences.
John remembered that when he was crossing the Nile, he contracted malaria, four other infections and tape worm, all seriously crippling his ability to go forward and making him tired, ill, and weak.
At those times he wanted nothing more than to retreat into his sleeping bag, but he always resisted the temptation and got back out on the river, struggling at first, but getting stronger as each hour passed.
He vowed that he would survive Cancer with the same determination.
He refused to let disease dominate his life. He got up when he felt ill and continued to live his life. He didn’t listen to any pessimists, he researched and read as many books as he could on how other people had survived this illness, and he rejected his own negative thoughts and immediately replaced them with positive expectations.
John surrounded himself with people that he cared about and simply made this a new life goal and resolved to never give up (no matter what) on reaching it.
Here’s some of what I learned from John that day:
I said good-bye to the pessimists in my life who were slowly dragging me down and realized how important choosing the right life partner, close friends and mentors are.
What goals or experiences are you missing out on because you have too many nay-sayers around you and not enough strong friends and mentors?
It’s never too late to make your own life list – to start fresh if need be and reinvent yourself from scratch.
Your mind and your body are stronger than you give them credit for. I’ve learned to remind myself to keep going even when I am afraid or “don’t feel like it” and soon I feel energized or overcome my fears.
Life is a precious gift, and not opening it is beyond unforgivable. John simply chooses to ‘go for it’. I learned how incredibly powerful and life changing those decisions can be.
- Stop making excuses for why things can’t be done. John was not a rich man, nor did he have super human strength.
- He didn’t have access to books or knowledge that we don’t.
- He wasn’t a lone explorer with nothing to risk but himself, he has a loving wife and five children. He simply made a decision and took action.
- He prepared for things as best he could beforehand, then trusted himself to figure out the rest.
There’s a saying that a client of mine sent me after we succeeded at a marketing campaign despite nay-sayers. It said, “Those who say it can’t be done should get out of the way of those who are doing it.”
Each adventure, rewarding experience, and step that you take in exploring where your life makes you stronger, more confident, and shows you what is possible.
You need to ‘do’ first in order to ‘know’ second – it’s never the other way around.
Waiting until you’re ‘sure’ or you know it’s the right thing is futile. I no longer wait for my doubts to come up or my fears to subside or for me to ‘know’ the answer.
I plan my life, I make the best possible choices I can, and I surprise myself each step of the way with every success I have. I’m even surprised at how much each ‘mistake’ gave me a valuable life nugget that has saved me even more from a potential future disaster or experience.
I learned how important it is to value your own life journey and to recognize that each of us is on one, whether we are aware of it or not.
I follow John’s advice to have more patience with myself and other people – to resolve conflict and to mend conflicts.
I make a point of aligning myself with ‘teachers’ – people who see the world differently than myself or who have knowledge that I don’t, who can open me up to another area of life that I never knew existed and who can guide me through it and yet let me lead my own way.
These people show up in everyone’s life, the trick is – do you always notice them?
Through the graciousness of John Goddard and his wife Carol inviting me into their home, I learned that my goals and the things I want to happen in my life may not really be as far away or as insurmountable as I sometimes make them out to be.
Sometimes all you need is the courage to take that chance, make that phone call or take a tiny step – and you’re there before you know it.
Is it time for you to have your own private “wish list”, which will turn into a “to do list”, then finally into a “list of accomplishments”?
2013 © Stefanie Hartman Enterprises Inc. You may republish this article, if you keep the article intact as is and credit the authors name and website: “Stefanie Hartman” and website: www.stefaniehartman.com. Thank you.
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