How to have the confidence to try

How to have the confidence to try

Confidence. It’s an elusive and powerful thing. If you have ever fancied doing something outside your normal repertoire, does the following conversation seem familiar to you?

“You’re going to do what? What makes you think you can do that?”

This attitude, so often seen, really says more about the person asking the question I think. They don’t have the confidence to take on their ambitions, so have to ask with undermining incredulity how others feel so brazen as to do so.

So we’ll ignore them shall we? That is a good first step. Remember, it is not the critic who counts. That renders their influence mute and impotent.

Let’s instead ask ourselves some better questions;

Instead of “why?” ask “why not?”

If you ask yourself why do you think you can do something, this has the effect of focusing on yourself, and not the matter in hand. If I asked why do I think I can run a marathon, I’ll end up scrutinising my own current levels of fitness at this point in time. If I ask instead, why can’t I do a marathon, then the answers often become practical steps to achieving the goal. Or they provoke further questions. So maybe the answer is, there is no reason I can’t run it, but then the question might become, why can’t I run it under 3hrs? In which case the serious of measures needed to improve to that level would arise; technique, training, injury recovery, etc. Really, we throw up so many imaginary barriers in front of ourselves sometimes that it is often best to really scrutinise them and if we tackle them one by one, there is no reason why we should have the confidence to take on any challenge.

What is my desired outcome?

The Marathon des Sables is a classic example of this but so is almost every other mass participation run. Some people aim to win, some people aim to just go the distance. Compete or Complete is the pithy way of putting it. If your aim is to compete, that’ll take talent and training. If your aim is to complete, then the bar for performance level lowers dramatically. In so many challenges, for so many people, their relative place is irrelevant. Edmund Hilary said it best; after all it is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves. Set your own ambitions and pursue them with confidence..

What if I don’t succeed?

Fear of failure is a huge barrier for most people. But what is the worst that could happen? You’d be embarrassed? Ok in some cases i.e. free climbing El Capitan you’d be dead, but that isn’t most people’s area of operation. Why be embarrassed? At least you tried. Like we said before, ignore other people. Armchair critics deserve a special place in purgatory, but they don’t need it, as their own bitterness is that in itself. You can inoculate yourself against fear of failure by, at all times, remembering the words of Theodore Roosevelt, H. Jackson Brown’s mother and Wayne Gretsky. If you don’t try, you’ve already failed.

You may also wish to consider the concept that failure is not an outcome in itself, but one result in a larger experiment. Why did you not succeed? Find the reason and fix it next time, again again until success.

What have I got to lose?

The final word goes to Steve Jobs; you’re going to die, so you already have nothing to lose.


Rob is a chubby, out of shape bloke who spent a lot of time in Sub Saharan Africa peering down well shafts. He is not suited to running long distances.

The things that you didn’t do – The Inspiration Station

The things that you didn’t do – The Inspiration Station

Talking of the the things that you didn’t do, we’ll start by talking about something Mark Twain never did.

He never uttered the following words;

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

In fact, the story behind the quote is even more inspiring in its own way. H. Jackson Brown Jr’s mother used to write to him when he was away. She kept her nuggets of gold for the P.S. of the letter and Brown compiled these in a book in 1991. The quote comes from that.

And Momma Brown is a wise woman, because she is damn right. If you ever need to seek the inspiration to take on something when doubts beset you, try reverse engineering your life. Think about the “rocking chair test”.

Imagine yourself, aged 90, sitting on your porch. There is a glorious sunset in front of you, the warm wind blows gently, the birds fly in from the ocean to nest. At that point, Death (who for our purposes is not a grim reaper but a figure from your past who died years ago e.g. grandparent, parent, friend, dog) comes and says to you; are you ready? Do you suddenly grieve for the opportunities you didn’t take and the times you decided not to take the leap of faith, or, do you nod, knowing that you lived a full life and one that was your own choice?

So pay attention to Mrs Brown, and throw off those bowlines. After all, as someone else put it;

A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.

Nope, that’s not Mark Twain either, but John A. Shedd.

But Mr Shedd and Mrs Brown, hat’s off to you. In a few words, they give anyone the reason they need to take on a challenge, in my case, the Marathon des Sables


Rob is a chubby, out of shape bloke who spent a lot of time in Sub Saharan Africa peering down well shafts. He is not suited to running long distances.

You are going to die – The Inspiration Station

You are going to die – The Inspiration Station

You are going to die. A brutal but effective observation from a man who would meet that fate all too soon. Steve Jobs had drive in bucket loads, acting as the visionary’s visionary when it comes to understanding where the modern world was heading. His words speak volumes beyond the tech sector though.

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.

Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Listen to the whole speech, from a commencement address he gave, here:

Fear of failure, of what people may think of you, is a more powerful force than it ought to be.

As a non-runner signing up to the toughest running event on earth, I am opening myself up to ridicule if I fail. But you know what, I just don’t care, because all that matters is the peace of mind that we can enjoy when the Valkyries come to take us.


Rob is a chubby, out of shape bloke who spent a lot of time in Sub Saharan Africa peering down well shafts. He is not suited to running long distances.

The shots you don’t take – The Inspiration Station

The shots you don’t take – The Inspiration Station

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”

This quote is attributed mainly to ice hockey legend Wayne Gretsky, though whether he was quoting advise given to him by a mentor or it was his own pearl of wisdom we’re note sure.

You miss 100% of the shots you don't take

What we are sure of is that it reduces a very empowering message into a crystal clear sentence. If you want to fail, the best way of achieving that to simply never try.

Aside from being a pithy motto, it is also a valuable lesson in statistics for anyone attempting anything seemingly difficult. By simply putting yourself in the game, you stand a better chance of succeeding. And if you don’t succeed first time, staying in the game will see your chances of succeeding increase.

That seems obvious put like that, but take that idea in a totally different but common context; sales. You’ve probably had “junk mail” through the letterbox and thought; ‘what a waste of their money’. The thing is that a direct mail campaign with a 5% success rate may be regarded as a huge success. If a campaign of 1000 letters cost £500 in printing and postage, but 50 new customers came on board with a £50 spend, that’s £2,000 profit for a days’s work. Of course that is a simplistic example but imagine 5% of 10000 letters, or 200,000 emails? If you take more shots, you’ll score more often.

So keep writing, keep running, keep practicing drop goals, keep spending hours writing that code, keep driving forward.

Because I know one thing for sure, the one way the chubby, out of shape dad that I am is going to be guaranteed to fail to complete the MdS is to not show up at the start line in the first place.


Rob is a chubby, out of shape bloke who spent a lot of time in Sub Saharan Africa peering down well shafts. He is not suited to running long distances.

It is not the critic who counts – The Inspiration Station

It is not the critic who counts – The Inspiration Station

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt: “The man in the arena” Paris, 1910

Theodore Roosevelt was a truly incredible human being. as a boy he was weak and frail. But forced himself into a life of adventure to promote personal growth and increase confidence and, suffice to say, it worked. However, it was this address which resonates through the years for a great many people.

In one paragraph he single handedly finds the words to liberate anyone of the fear of failure. Certainly after reading this you’ll be full of the confidence to basically tell your armchair critics to do one. How great it is to be given permission from, arguably, one of the greatest US presidents to not give a monkeys what anyone thinks. Which comes in useful if you want to take on seemingly big challenges.


Rob is a chubby, out of shape bloke who spent a lot of time in Sub Saharan Africa peering down well shafts. He is not suited to running long distances.

50 miles wasn’t something I ever imagined running…

50 miles wasn’t something I ever imagined running…

The South Downs Way 50 Mile Ultramarathon

50 miles wasn’t something I ever imagined running.  Walking, hiking or shuffling perhaps…but not running.

I entered the South Downs Way 50 race in a spate of excitement about ultra running spurred on by colleagues and friends (including the entry for the Marathon Des Sables 2018).  By July 2016 I had signed up for a marathon in November, an eighteen miler early in the New Year, the South Downs Way 50 in early April and the MdS in April 2018.  Plenty of time to train and prepare…

March arrived with very little training having been done and a series of niggling injuries (probably related to too little training).  I squeezed in my 3 mile run each way to the station in the morning and managed a few longer runs of 18 and 20 odd miles.


Race day philosophy – in this order:

  1. Do not jack
  2. Make the cut-off
  3. Sub-ten hours
  4. Sub-nine hours

The 11th of April was a beautiful day with not a cloud in the sky as we gathered in Worthing.  This was the point I should have said to myself “you’re going to be running in this all day, how about some sunscreen” but no that penny didn’t drop until about halfway.  The start and first few miles were a very steady slog up onto the downs and along the ridge over some of the best scenery of the day with great views all around to the south coast and to the north.  My main aim at this stage was not to upset the groin injury I’d been carrying too soon in the race and try to keep up with people who looked like they knew what they were doing (this isn’t a good strategy).

South Downs Way 50 mile ultramarathon Callum Duffy Weeventure

There was one woman (she looked like she knew what she was doing) who had a metronomic stride.  I went past her a few times but she came back with the same constant foot fall every time until she finally dropped me for good.

The halfway or marathon aid station came and went during the hottest part of the day.  I started to get a feel for what I liked to eat (watermelon and oranges – Yes, sausage rolls, stale cheese sandwiches and energy gels – No) and that taking in enough salt / electrolytes was critical.  The electrolytes were remarkable and changed, almost instantaneously, my sloshing and sick feeling stomach into something that felt stable and strangely tight.

As the late 30 and early 40 miles arrived running became an issue for stiff muscles.  I began hoping the next section was uphill so I could hike instead of running.  The checkpoint at the Church in Alfriston was a welcome break.  Water refills, oranges, watermelon and electrolytes and I was off with the Baywatch theme booming from the checkpoint speakers.

I took to grasping a 500ml water bottle in one hand and attempting not to swing that arm while running.  This didn’t do too much for my running style – another thing I wouldn’t recommend, but better than being dehydrated when you can’t reach the water in your pack and can’t be arsed to take it off.

The Trig point at the top of the final climb was a welcome sight and now for the long slog down to the running track through the seemingly never ending streets of Eastbourne.  I eventually made it to the running track, did my obligatory loop and completed the race in 9hrs 21 mins.

South Downs Way 50 mile ultramarathon 2017 Callum Duffy Weeventure

The South Downs Way 50 was a good experience, a long day and pretty hard at times.  The worst part in the days after was the sunburn, but luckily it was only half my body as we went west to east all day!

A few very simple lessons learned for the next ultra outing:

  1. Wear long sleeved/legged clothing or sunscreen if it’s going to be sunny
  2. Find a way to carry food and water in an accessible place
  3. Use electrolytes or salt tablets
  4. Train and find a way to keep to a predetermined pace


You can read the official race report here:

If you’d like to follow our progress towards the unforgiving sands of the Marathon des Sables, along with other adventures and challenges from others, then simply click this link or sign up in the box on the right hand column


Callum is an engineering geologist with a love of the great outdoors and physical challenges in extreme environments.

Go as a pilgrim and seek out danger

Go as a pilgrim and seek out danger

Go as a pilgrim and seek out danger
far from the comfort and the well lit avenues of life.

Pit your every soul against the unknown
and seek stimulation in the comfort of the brave.

Experience cold, hunger, heat and thirst
and survive to see another challenge and another dawn.

Only then will you be at peace with yourself
and be able to know and to say;

“I look down the farthest side of the mountain,
fulfilled and understanding all,
and truly content that I lived a full life and one 
that was my own choice”

If ever there were ninety six words which completely encapsulated the desire and purpose in people who seek adventure, it is those above. The author is reported to be James Elroy Flecker and taken from his play Hassan. I’ve searched the text numerous times, both by traditional means and by downloading the plain text and using search function and I cannot find it anywhere. However, perhaps it is in another piece of his work, if you have a source, let us know and we’ll link it here. Whoever wrote the lines above, they deserve a solid handshake. Beyond anything else worth coveting, surely the last two lines of this poem offer something truly worth aspiring to.

What Flecker did write, which is famous inscribed on the clock tower at Hereford, is this passage;

We are the Pilgrims, master; we shall go
Always a little further; it may be
Beyond that last blue mountain barred with snow
Across that angry or that glimmering sea,

White on a throne or guarded in a cave
There lies a prophet who can understand
Why men were born: but surely we are brave,
Who take the Golden Road to Samarkand.

And in truth, that is no less inspiring.


Rob is a chubby, out of shape bloke who spent a lot of time in Sub Saharan Africa peering down well shafts. He is not suited to running long distances.

Why I’m running the Marathon des Sables? – Dad Bod Diaries #1

Why I’m running the Marathon des Sables? – Dad Bod Diaries #1

I hate running.

There you have it. That is my reason for signing up for 6 days of running across the Sahara desert.

I try to like it but you see I’m a bit like Gimli in Lord of the Rings;

Even when, during that brief moment in puberty when I grew to the height of a man with the body mass of a medium sized otter, I was physically capable of running long distance effectively I never felt any love for it. That is not to say I was not reasonably athletic. As a boy I played rugby to a reasonable level, being part of a Scottish championship winning youth team and earning modest representative honours for the district. One seminal night in 1996 I learned to love athletics too, as I watched Michael Johnston storm to victory in the 400metres in Atlanta. As 13 year olds, we assumed the 400m was middle distance, not a sprint. In that moment I understood that I could do more than I though it was possible for me to do. In the school years that followed I won multiple sports championships (multi-event athletics) and broke the school discus record. The points for these however, did not come from running far. Genetics meant I was somewhat of a natural mesomorph, destined to be good at shifting heavy things, quickly. Incidentally, all the distance medals were mopped up by Callum anyway.

What I lack in terms of being aerobically fit, I make up for in being spectacularly stubborn. I enjoy endurance competitions when they go well beyond physical fitness and into the realms of mental fortitude. Sure, some 8 stone racing snake will leave me miles behind in a marathon, but how would he fare after two days carrying 50kg without sleep?

Why do people love these self-harming challenges? I could give you many deep and meaningful reasons but your man Johnny Cash hit it on the nugget when he sang(?) the lyrics “I hurt myself today, to see if I still feel”. I grew up in the country, did my first munro aged 6 and was rarely ever indoors. My current life, lived in the cosseted world of a city, working in an office, removes you from a sensory connection with what we, as humans, are meant to be. So it’s a mighty good way to blow away the cobwebs of modern life. Self-sufficient long distance running is what humans are designed to do. True story (possibly).

But, and like that overdeveloped gluteous maximus which makes humans so good at running it’s a big butt, that doesn’t mean you have to enjoy the sport of running. I far prefer worshipping at the iron temple, hoisting weights to get pumped for absolutely no practical purpose. I do it because I get a much bigger endorphin rush from that. Basically I enjoy it … and every child of the 80s yearns to be in their own Rocky montage. By taking on and possibly completing one of the hardest running events in the world, I’ll hopefully earn the right to never have to run more than 30 yards between ruck again.


Rob is a chubby, out of shape bloke who spent a lot of time in Sub Saharan Africa peering down well shafts. He is not suited to running long distances.

What is Weeventure?

What is Weeventure?

Weeventure is a community blog, based around a simple idea of personal growth through adventure.

It is first and foremost, not a new idea. Anyone who has heard the phrase “character building” We claim no sense of originality or propriety to this concept. It has many parents.

So we’re talking adventures, usually in the company of like minded folk. It isn’t about a multi-year expedition but more the sort of thing that you would do in your couple of weeks annual leave. Don’t be mistaken into thinking we’re talking purely epic scale adventures too. An adventure to someone with agoraphobia may well just be going for a walk in their park. It is the principle we must look to;

adventure n.exciting and risky undertaking or exploit

When you step outside of your comfort zone, and find that you succeed and thrive in that previously unknown territory, you will naturally expand that comfort zone until you reach the point where your self-confidence and esteem is beyond the ability of everyday events to injure. You know that you can cope.

The British Armed Forces employ this principle and articulate it better than we do;

“Challenging outdoor training for Service personnel in specified adventurous activities, involving controlled exposure to risk, in order to develop leadership, teamwork, physical fitness, moral and physical courage, among other personal attributes and skills vital to Operational capability.”
British Army: The Definition of Adventurous Training

In a more current, less combatative, incarnation this idea of taking on simple challenges to broaden your experience and increase your confidence has been brilliantly packaged and championed by seasoned professional adventurer Alastair Humphreys. In his hashtag revolution (and later book) MIcroadventures, he advocates for undertaking adventures on your doorstep. These range from walking home for Christmas to sleeping out on a hill near your home town. But the point is that such a simple first step will often be that first push against the invisible walls of the dreaded comfort zone. It’s not often you get to start a movement but for Humphreys, microadventure has become left the pages of his blog/books and sifted into the common lexicon. It is simply the standard term for a small scale adventure. So now you know what to call your bank holiday camping trip with mates.

So we’re combining both of those things, plus a big degree of community and camaraderie to create Weeventure.

WE VENTURE – We (together) take on new ventures

WEE VENTURE – We aren’t looking to break world records, just do interesting things while balancing the other demands of life. Think of Wee Venture as the Scottish translation of Microadventure

Our basic aim is to share stories which are relatable and accessible for all with a taste for adventure. But we want to become more than that; Weeventure has aspirations to become a social enterprise. A non-for-profit group, funds raised from corporate sponsorship will go towards funding two key areas;

  1. The awarding of grants to individuals or teams, in order to allow them to take on a challenge or adventure.
  2. The awarding of grants to charitable bodies who support people to experience the transformative power of pushing your limits.

Which means that people who would otherwise be unable to, can now go on expeditions and charities who use adventurous pursuits to build confidence can get funding for their projects. Importantly, it is you, our email subscribers who will decide the projects through polling. We want this site to be as much a community as possible.



Rob is a chubby, out of shape bloke who spent a lot of time in Sub Saharan Africa peering down well shafts. He is not suited to running long distances.