Friday, March 7, 2014

The Arena

I have been reflecting on my last Post.

It's related to the impact people's kind words and encouragement as well as doubt impact on our confidence to reach our goals and fulfil dreams, particularly when we put ourselves out there and let the world see what we are doing.

The day after I pressed "publish" on that Post, I received a call from my cousin Mark and Catherine who have packed up their life and are fulfilling their dream of living on a boat and sailing abroad. They were attempting the 900 nautical mile voyage across the Southern Ocean from Tasmania to New Zealand in their yacht and had to turn back just hours into their journey due to a broken block which then caused one of the inner staysails to tear. It wasn't the main sail but given they are crossing the Southern Ocean and contending with the Roaring 40's, they thought it wise to have this particular sail in their armoury. This was on the back of having their departure delayed a couple of times due to weather conditions.

They moored off the coast of Tasmania and while Catherine stayed with the boat, I spent the next 24 hours with Mark while he arranged to have the sail mended and new blocks replaced before the weather window for the crossing closed in. In the hours we spent in the car between Port Arthur and Hobart and in between visits to Ship Chandleries we discussed life, success and failure and more importantly how easy it is to get in a negative mindset when you face a setback. And there are always challenges that test our strength because that's the essence of life. After a dream run down the entire east coast of Australia and Tasmania and with New Zealand their next port in their sights, they were zooming along, the wind in their hair, feeling on top of the world, living their dream when a string of unfortunate little events in a short space of time had them turning back to shore. He was obviously not happy!

I don't know if genetics come into play but we both agreed that we prefer to go about achieving goals without anyone knowing so we can just focus on the task at hand and not be distracted by the thoughts and opinions of others, particularly when you encounter the odd hiccup. It's an unnecessary pressure we seem to place on ourselves. 

I told him how uncomfortable I was with everyone knowing about our Farm Development so early on in the piece. My preference would have been to let the cat out of the bag maybe 2 months prior to the doors opening. The problem with this strategy, as I've discovered over the past few months, is that if you put yourself out there, you may get other people's opinions that you don't necessarily agree with but you also get the benefit of the wisdom and ideas of others who are in the same boat, that have either "been there done that", that have the benefit of hindsight or that just want to support you along the way because they believe in what you are doing.

Mark thought some may see this little setback of theirs as a failure. I told him nothing could be further from the truth. That he's in the game, having a crack and that courage is a quality that is to be admired above all else. I mentioned the wonderful Brene Brown's talk I had listened to some time ago in which she likened putting yourself out there and exposing your hopes and dreams to the world as entering an Arena. She talks about the importance of saving seats for the critics because they will always be there, but also for the people who support you - your family and friends who have your best interests at heart. It seems when we are working towards a goal and hit a hurdle, it is the critics voice we listen to rather than the encouraging words of our supporters and the biggest critic of all is usually ourselves - "I knew I wouldn't make it" rather than "no problem, it's just a little set-back, get back on the horse!". The thing that has stayed with me from Brene Brown's talk is that when you put yourself in the Arena, regardless of the outcome, you are daring greatly because you have shown the courage to get in the Arena in the first place. 

Mark is daring greatly and I am so inspired by what he and Catherine are doing. They did indeed get back on the horse and are now 6 days into their challenging voyage across the Southern Ocean with New Zealand in their sights in the next couple of days. How amazing are they!

So, the thought I had was how this all relates to parenting too. There isn't a bigger arena in life than parenting. To those who left the most wonderful insights and words of encouragement on my last Post, thank you so much. I have taken every single comment, the words of advice, practical help, e-mails, non-advice and virtual hugs on board. It has made the world of difference and I feel better equipped to get on top of things, one disaster zone at a time :-)

I stumbled on Brene Brown's Vulnerability Talks on TED some time ago but her talk "Stop Focussing on your Critics" can be found here, which I discovered reading this blog Post.

Funnily enough, the very next day after farewelling Mark and Catherine I was rummaging in the Tip Shop and came across this John Spooner Cartoon all nicely framed. Spooner is a political cartoonist but after the events of last week, it really resonated with me on a personal level and is now on the wall as a visual reminder of the importance of "getting in the Arena". 
Have a wonderful weekend Friends!

Mel xxx


  1. I'm sorry I didn't comment on your last post Mel, if I knew the answers my own place wouldn't be in such a constant state of turmoil. I do hope you feel as though your head's a little further out of the water this week.
    Isn't it a shame that so many people are keen to be critics, and I find that there is more support online with people I don't 'really' know than in my own real crowd, which seems a shame to me. Wishing you a wonderful weekend.

  2. I'm still catching up on my blog reading since being in Las Vegas last week. I'm sorry you had one of those weeks where life catches up with you from behind, grabs you by the ankles, and pulls you down hard. I love that Ted Talk about getting in the arena. When Annie at Knitsofacto posted it and I watched it for the first time I promised myself I was going to take that whole arena thing to heart. Of course, time has moved on and I had forgotten all about it. I'm so glad you brought it up in your post!

    I felt the same way about my book as you did about your Farm Development. That's why I waited so long to make an announcement on my blog about it. As far as being a domestic goddess failure, I am hear to shout from my arena seat that you are anything but a failure. You are warm and honest and funny (I read your post about your kids embarrassing you to my mom and daughter while we were in Vegas and they laughed their heads off!). The mommy blogs that only have lovely pictures (all staged), stories of culinary feasts (I bet their kids cry because they don't get hot dogs for dinner), and harmonious living (the only way to avoid sibling rivalry and bickering is to have an only child) are like the glossy pages of a magazine. Totally unrealistic and artificial. I would rather see a mom whose magazine picture has her holding her young son's soother any day. :-)

  3. Sometimes there is nothing to be learnt from negative criticism is there? other than to learn to be able to look past it, and continue on your own merry way. Opinions and positive criticism from loyal family and friends, who are both honest and supportive is more valuable than anybody else's. I say listen to your brother!!!
    Hugs to you xx

  4. All that negative thoughts do is make you feel negative, nothing to be gained from that! Have a wonderful weekend and lots of luck to your cousin too, how fantastic are they?!

  5. I think you summed it up nicely and it is much easier to learn from other peoples mistakes. Good luck to your cousin what a great adventure.

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  7. I'm sitting bolt upright in your corner Mel. We all need supporters, me more than anyone. Have faith, God has our back x

  8. I know exactly how you feel about your Farm Development plans Mel. We were just the same with our development. The world and his wife think they know exactly what we should be doing and didn't hesitate to tell us as soon as the plans were in the public domain. We just wanted to work it out in our own heads first and have the chance to change our plans without everyone knowing. It's a bit like telling family the new baby's name - always announce it when the baby's born when they can't try to persuade you otherwise, never before!

  9. A fantastic post. I've been listening this week to a series of five programmes on BBC Radio 4 about the value of failure. Five people from different walks of life have been talking about how much they have learned and how valuable failures and setbacks are. One of them, a headmistress, talked about how the girls in her school are encouraged to embrace failure. They have put themselves out there and tried, and that should be celebrated. If you'd like to have a look, the programmes can be listened to for another few days here - The essence of it is, that you can avoid failure by sitting on the sofa doing nothing. But then you'll never have done anything. Taking a chance is everything. Thanks for this post Mel, it's been really thought provoking. Wishing your cousin and his wife and you guys the very best of luck and success. CJ xx

  10. this is brilliant Mel! I didn't read your last post, but will after I publish this comment! I think sometimes life is all about timing, perhaps that sail was meant to tear, because they weren't meant to be sailing at that time. I know I was meant to read this post, as I've had a few critics in my ear (some coming from myself) and I really needed to good readjustment….thanks sweet lady! always a wonder with words. PS - my dad would LOVE that print! xx

  11. I can say nothing other than to totally agree with everything that you have said here, not in a sycophantic way, but because I truly feel the same way. I think that your brother and his family are so brave, setting a goal and putting themselves out there - literally - but the thing is they are doing it when so many would sit back and do nothing. The same is true for you and your family. You are right, others might have good things to contribute, or at least for you to consider. The things that are irrelevant, wrong, not right for you, or you just don't like can be put aside. The advice givers will not know one way or the other, so you should not let it worry you - there I go giving advice!! I loved Brene Brown's talk that you refer to and listened to it when Annie first posted it on her blog, she is so right, you have to put yourselves out there, reserve all those seats, but I don't think that you have to listen to them just because they are sitting there! I hope that you find a way through all of this. Oh, just thought of something else - more unwanted advice! - when I started a new job some years ago I was really worried about whether or not the clients I would be dealing with and giving advice to would know that I didn't think that I knew what I was talking about. The advice given to me was that they don't know what you don't know - as in they have no idea if you know the answer or not. So, if you turn this around to your situation, no one knows if you take their advice or not, and indeed no one knows if you even read it, so you could just skip on by - in fact, you might well do that with all this unwanted advice from me!!!!!!! Truly though, I hope that you are OK and will be thinking of you. xx

  12. Mel I just think you are very brave. The end.
    You tackle most things head on, have a lovely family and although there may be little hiccups along the way, I stil admire your approach to life. Have fun - enjoy! cheers Wendy

  13. You know how you can't have up without down, well you can't have success without failure either. The one is meaningless without the other ... true successes are built on failures ... a failure is just a way that didn't work, and success is to keep trying all the other ways until you find one that does work, or come to accept that none of them do.

    And what Kristie said in her second paragraph ... I couldn't agree with her more x

  14. To me there's no such thing as failure, just life lessons. It's sad that there's always a fair share of critics finding fault, (and who are these people anyway?), but the reality is there's also a silent majority is there barracking for you. The thing is to blot out the negativity and go for whatever you're after. It all comes together eventually, the biggest life lesson of all is, ignore the critics. If they're living their dreams, they wouldn't feel the necessity to crush others'.

  15. So Powerful!
    You are an inspiration to me.

    That 'Spooner' is AMAZING!!!!!!!!

  16. Hi Mel, Cat and I arrived safely in Bluff, New Zealand after 7 days and 2 hours at sea. Can't thank you and the family enough for all your help and encouragement. Couldn't have done it without you.

  17. Yey for you, Mark!
    Mel, you ar amazing, balancing great dreams, practicalities and a family. Like you, I often tell people things in order to collect advice (always helps with children's health issues, I find!) and sometimes have to pay for it with negative comments. But in the end, the good far outweighs the bad, and there's nothing like the support of family and friends. Keep plugging away at your dream. xx

  18. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I guess. Like so much in life it's all about the positive or negative glasses we view thing through. What your cousin is doing is amazing! I wish them lots of success with their voyage. x