Don Quixote

On the Horns of a Dilemma: Come Too Far to Stop; Not Enough Support to Go

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General William Tecumseh Sherman, 1865.
General William Tecumseh Sherman, 1865. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The great and hard-charging American Civil War leader, General Sherman, spoke about putting his enemies on the horns of a dilemma. Confront them with a decision where either option is at their peril. Have you ever been in one of those sticky situations? Come too far to stop, but not having enough enough resources to proceed. Maybe you know what I am talking about.

I am not talking about the time you waited on the phone for two hours while the help-desk had you on hold. You really needed to take that call, but after hearing you were next in line your phone battery was about to give out, and you had a pressing engagement to attend. Waited too long to stop, but not enough capacity to see it through until the end. The classic case of what to do?

I am addressing something of a bigger dimension in this post.

In May 2010, I decided that I would open a conversation about poverty and the Millennium Development Goals through a stunt I called the 10 City Bridge Run which was a global endurance challenge where I would run 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries all inside of one month. In hindsight, often my efforts have been clumsy and crude- there was always room for improvement. It is the most painful form of progress. Bon Scott knew about this when he sang the rock anthem “It’s a Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)”.

I look back on this period where I have sought to partner with quite a number of  ‘not-for-profit’ organisations to undertake this journey on their behalf, but was met with words of encouragement but closed doors. “Not in line with our messaging or our fundraising objectives”. So much for wanting to change the world whatever it takes.

Looking back, I see an inexact definition of what I had hoped to achieve often to source of this rejection. I reread the weekly updates I produced for my first supporters, and cringe at my naivety. That was all part of the journey. I don’t know there was necessarily a shortcut past that earlier point of unsophistication. In the process, although it has been extremely difficult and challenging, I have learnt a huge amount about the issue and also importantly about myself. Mostly importantly, is that now I have good clarity of where I am heading. The question is, will I achieve enough support to deliver? That is largely up to you.

In late August 2010, I commenced what was my first attempt at crowdfunding. It was successful to a point, and the response from friends who backed me was a huge encouragement. Enough to get me started, not enough to achieve completion. I had undertaken a similar event in 2009 which I funded myself in its entirety, and while that was a worthwhile journey it was financially a bad decision. I ended up after the 2009 journey wiser and richer in experience, but emotionally and physically exhausted. Even encouragement has its limits.

I continued to look for an opportunity to start this journey in 2010, acknowledging the prudent precondition of needing sufficient funds to begin. Two years ago this week, I finally relented that it would not be possible to commence running in 2010 knowing that I was not going to raise enough money to complete the journey at that time. Besides not raising the money, my body was broken from overtraining and I was unable to run at that time even to catch a bus. It was probably a period of another five months before I was running again, and then only very gently as I began my recovery.

Last year, I looked for further opportunity to commence the journey. Nothing bore fruit. I had received just over $6,000 by early 2011 from my crowdfunding efforts, and took my responsibility seriously towards delivering on the expectation that I had set.

Which brought me to September of 2012 part way through my recent crowdfunding round. A good friend from the cut-and-thrust world of business who was a lot older and experienced than me, gave me some advice over coffee about leadership: “When you are the leader, and faced with a difficult situation, you need to weigh up the situation. If it is beyond you, then walk away. People will understand.”

What was I to do? Delay was not really a solution. Delay by how long? Weeks, months, years? The problem is the real deadline looming outside of my control: the 2015 expiration of the Millennium Development Goals. Besides this, every day close to 20,000 children will die mostly from five largely preventable causes. It really is crunch time.

There is a fine line between the expressions ‘Don’t die wondering’ and ‘To Dream The Impossible Dream’. What on earth are we to make of a character like Don Quixote?

That Moment of Your Quixotic Realisation. Been there before? Overcommitted to chasing windmills? Boxing at shadows? Or is it really a credible exercise in changing the game, and in the process inspiring others? Yes, we love to remember the quotes by Steve Jobs (“Here’s to the Crazy Ones”), and others like that. My sense is that there is a moment of irrationality where the feeling of the ‘inner Don Quixote’ emerging needs to be stamped out, and remembered that it is just the discomfort of working towards something that is just a little further out of reach than anticipated.

I remember doing some work for a company in the Pilbera back in 2007. Postered onto every office of that organisation were the company values which included: “Never ever give up”. Failure will occur, but failure is not the end of the journey. It is simply an operational pause, and time to grip up your resolve to work out how to reach your objective.

There have been plenty of times over the last two and a half years of gut-wrenching uncertainty. There is a lot to be said for partnership and working in teams. Everything has to start somewhere. Before a team became a team, it was a collection of individuals.

In just over a month, I will go on a journey and smash myself. There are better ways to open a conversation. Perhaps more sensible ways too. The question is though, is the situation of child mortality not so pressing that it deserves us giving everything an opportunity? I am not doing this for your entertainment. Please join me on this journey- let me do the heavy lifting, but we all need to join the conversation.

Elvis had it half right. We need a little more action, but also a little more conversation. Come on and satisfy me by sponsoring this initiative. You can do that for the cost of a meal at this link: Thanks for your support.