Reach for New Horizons

Did you know that on the ocean, the horizon is only 8 nautical miles away?  When my family and I crossed the Atlantic in 2011, rather than being awed by the expanse it felt like we were sailing in a bubble. 

The same is true for many of us in life.  We live in a bubble defined by our upbringing, our education, our social circle.  These things define what we believe to be true. But like Columbus, we need to break away from ‘common beliefs’ and instead, lift our sights and see a broader horizon.

Unfortunately, this is a barrier too great for most. According to current ABS figures, the average small business owner innovates less than half as much as their corporate big brothers.  Even of those, 1 in 3 of those fail to innovate.  It seems that rather than reaching for new heights, many business owners are content with what is known, what is common… and therefore what is average.

“If you do not change direction, you will end up where you are going.

— Lao Tzu

Our limitations come from the limits of our imagination and the limits of our thoughts, knowledge and beliefs.  We need to break this myopia which can only be done through inquiry, learning and the inspiration of others.


So what can you do?  Here are a few personal habits I have for keeping my sights high:

  1. I follow people that inspire me.  If you’re lacking imagination, borrow someone else’s.  As a teenager I was lucky to spend a lot of time with self-made men in my sailing circles.  These people showed me that there was a broader horizon available than the one my family and friends knew of.
  2. I spend time with people who are smarter than I.  Nothing lifts your game like watching, speaking to and spending time with those you’re in awe of. These people can be mentors, authors or industry experts.
  3. I suspend disbelief.  Instead of saying “I can’t”, I say “I can’t yet (but I’ll be able to work it out eventually)”.  Imagination, inspiration, dreams and most importantly, self-efficacy are the foundations of a life lived to its full potential.


When trying to define your new horizons, it’s common for people to get stuck and not know where to begin.  Here’s a simple exercise that I use to get going:

Take yourself to a quiet corner and write the following phrase: “I see a future where…” and then complete the sentence…and the next… and the next.  In fact, keep writing, uncensored, unedited for the next 30min.  This becomes your personal vision statement – your own strategic intent, capturing all of your hopes, aspirations and dreams.

I like to draw mine as a mind map and stick it on the fridge where I can see it.  Other people like to create vision boards.  Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter.  Just capture it, document it and then let it ignite your dreams, because focusing your imagination has powerful effects.

Of course there’s action required to bring these things to fruition (read my blog on accountability) but this is a great place to start.


So lift your sights, dream of distant shores and a new reality from the one you know today.

And then start!  Like Columbus, act with courage.  Cast off and reach for a new and broader horizon than the one you’ve known and lived so far.

Square Your Shoulders, Take a Breath

We all go through periods when each day is a tough one.  At times like this, it’s easy to question our resolve, give up on our dreams and retreat to what is safe and known.

It’s at these times you need to take a breath, square your shoulders and just put one foot in front of the other.

“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.

— Harriet Beecher Stowe

As entrepreneurs and leaders we all face times like this.  Times when it would be easier to opt for a simpler life – any many do every day.  The business exit rate in Australia stands at 48% – there are a lot of broken dreams wrecked on the reef of entrepreneurship.

I’ve known many times like this myself.  Times in my career when I’ve been up against the wall.  Times at sea, when it was tough, exhausting and heart breaking. Times as an entrepreneur when I didn’t know how I was going to pay the rent next month.

But to accomplish extraordinary things you have to, by definition, be capable of extra ordinary (beyond ordinary) efforts.  It takes resilience, fortitude and commitment.


A great example of this is the story of New Zealand mountaineer Joe Simpson who fell 150 feet into a crevasse and broke his leg.  Badly injured, lost without food or water and unable to climb out, it would have been easy to give up. Instead, he lowered himself deeper into the crevasse, found another way out and then spent 3 days dragging his broken body 5 miles until he reached base camp.

Thankfully, few of the challenges we face are so extreme but the lesson still holds.  When you find yourself in a tough place, the only way out is to pick yourself up and put one foot in front of the other until you come out the other side.


When in places like this, here are a couple of things I’ve found that help:

  • Expect (and accept) the setbacks.  Knowing this is a normal state – that success requires renewal and growth, helps me keep things in perspective.
  • Visualise.  I take a deep breath, see my shoulders lifting and squaring up.  My back and torso lift and strengthen.  Mentally, I lean forward into the problem and then resolve to just put one foot in front of the other.
  • Know your purpose.  Knowing why I’m doing what I’m doing each day, why I’m getting out of bed, helps me see the bigger the picture.  It gives me energy and strengthens my resolve.
  • Faith that it will all work out.  I’ve been through a lot of adversity…and yet I’m still here and life is good.  Experience tells me that these times are temporary (and often necessary).  I know with the benefit of hindsight, I’ll be a better person when I reach the other side.


At the end of the day, you only ever have three choices:

  1. Give up
  2. Stay in the dark places
  3. Walk yourself out

I’m not willing to stay in the dark. I’m not prepared to give up.  That only leaves one option.  To keep putting one foot in front of the other.  The sooner I start, the more consistently I do it, the sooner I come out on the other side.