Open House: Yorkshire Rows on making big dreams happen

by Rachel Cook

Friday was the latest instalment in our Open House series of events, and what a cracker it was. Two very lovely members of the Yorkshire Rows came to tell us a story. A story about rowing 3,000 nautical miles in 67 days, becoming the oldest women ever to row an ocean, in fact. Crikey.

We’ve hardly stopped talking about it since. The mindset and attitude of Helen and Janette blew us away and even drew a few tears (and not a single beer had passed our lips). The stuff that really got us going was about having big dreams and actually making them happen.

Here are some of the things that have stuck with us:

  • 1. Mental toughness Vs motivation

    Motivation is all well and good, but when you’re 62 days into rowing 2 hours on, 2 hours off, you need more than a first flurry of excitement or some inherent fitness to keep you going. One of the rowers, Helen, commented, “It was hard at night when you got the knock on the hatch and you knew you had to get up and row… again”.

    So when the will to get over the finish line started to wane, the Rows developed coping strategies and leaned on their amazing team to get them through – and get through they did.

    Like Paul said, “They showed that successfully achieving a goal is, in almost any discipline, more about mental toughness and determination than it is about ability”.

    2. Ordinary people can do extraordinary things

    Meeting the Yorkshire Rows, you’re instantly struck by how down to earth and normal they are – not the semi-superhuman athletes we expected. And if people so normal can do something as ludicrous as rowing an ocean, what’s to stop you or I doing it?

    As Joe said, “It really shows how, if you put your mind to it and really want to do something, it’s never beyond your reach.”

    3. It’s ok to do something for yourself

    The talk raised questions around family and identity. Deciding to leave your family for 2 months and to do something that’s completely for yourself is a tough decision. Asking others to put themselves out to accommodate your dream is huge – but potentially hugely worthwhile, too.

    It really struck a chord with Kirsty, a mum of two lovely little ones, who commented: “These women all had lives and families, yet they did something that right now would make me feel immensely selfish. They did something that was for them and them alone. And that’s not a criticism of them at all, it says more about me. They found the strength to say YES, and convince everyone to help them make it happen.”

  • Image: Photographer, Ben Duffy.

    4. Not having time is not an excuse

    Not having time must be the most commonly cited reason for giving up on dreams – but the Yorkshire Rows didn’t let it stop them. Ian’s comments summed it up perfectly: “What sticks in my mind is how the women made time to prepare, once they had decided they really wanted to make it happen. Because they already had more than enough to do in their lives, what with kids and family and jobs, they all decided to go to bed an hour later and get up an hour earlier. That way, they had 2 more hours every day to fit in training. That was what they promised each other and it became their regime. Because of this, they defeated the enemy of all important things – that feeling that you’ll never have enough time. That self-discipline (which is really hard to achieve) became the new way, and it’s part of what got them right through to the end, so they could enjoy the experience. Amazing.”

    5. Dreams come in all shapes and sizes

    At the end of the talk, we all had chance to reflect on what our goals were, in a semi-7 Step fashion, and it was amazing to hear all the different ideas flying around. From the strenuous (Jamie is planning to cycle round Iceland, FYI), to the creative (Ian’s making a film), to the practical (‘I want to push this baby out of me’. Good luck Thea)… Knowing the dreams of others means you can help out, keep them on track – they in turn can do the same for you. And just hearing the dreams of others can inspire you to dream a little bigger yourself.

  • 6. There’s life to be had out there

    Hearing from women who’ve travelled the world gives you some real perspective. Leanne summed it up nicely: “The most inspiring thing was hearing them talk about actually going out, living life and experiencing the world, rather than just keeping the blinkers on and trudging through the daily grind. They made me realise that any adventure is possible if you put your mind to it, and that there’s so much more to life than what we get so wrapped up in every day.”

    7. Push yourself and you’ll be amazed by what you can do

    This last one is what’s been playing in my head since Friday. It’s easy to be afraid to push yourself because you’re afraid to fail, but as the girls told us, ‘If four working mums can row an ocean, anyone can do anything. You just have to really want it”. That’s stuck with me since hearing the girls on Friday. I spend so long sat down every day, and yet managed to throw myself round a triathlon with zero training. Now, I’m not showing off – I was pretty rubbish, but I DID make it round, and if I’d not tried, I wouldn’t have thought for a second that I could. So if I can do that, however slowly, what’s stopping me doing everything else I want to do?

    That’s why I’ve just signed up for a last minute 10k on Sunday and finally plucked up the courage – and the funds – to book in my next triathlon in less than 12 weeks time… I’ll be fine – I just need to make sure I want it enough.

  • Would you like to hear a story?

    For more information on Open House you can check our blog post here.

    Would you like to tell us a story?

    If you’ve got an interesting story to tell, we’d love to hear it. Get in touch with Rachel on the usual number.

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