“I have learnt that there’s more to success than owning companies and crossing finish lines.”
Sport has always been an important part of my life. As a child, I remember being quite active; playing soccer, attending swimming lessons and going to judo classes. Being naturally driven, sport has been a platform to develop my competitive nature.
Sport opened many doors for me, beginning with high school basketball. In my final year, as captain, I was awarded the Most Valuable Player in the High School Championships. I then played in the amateur league where we beat 150 teams to win a championship, which lead me to represent Poland in an international tournament where Poland ranked third out of 16 countries. I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship to play on a US College basketball team, and later that year, my school won the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) Division II National Championship.
Playing basketball for over 10 years taught me a lot about sports, life and business, such as ‘you can’t win alone’, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put in 100% of your own heart, talent and effort. Not every game will be won, neither will all games be great, but if the full team gives it their all, there’s a greater chance of success.
In 2004, I began my own companies, which fortunately allowed me to become an angel investor in start-ups. As a result, I spent less time on sporting activities. I put on some extra weight and developed injuries. After my second knee surgery in 2013, I realized I needed a lifestyle change. I missed playing sport, feeling good about myself, having goals, and, at 116kg, I needed to lose weight.
I joined a sports club, but after years of inactivity, I couldn’t manage one lap in the swimming pool or a one kilometer run and my butt hurt from the exercise bike. I looked terrible and felt terrible. So, naturally, I thought about signing up for a triathlon, to which my wife quickly said, “Are you crazy?” She was right (of course), I was crazy. Twelve months later, I crossed the finish line of my first Ironman in Klagenfurt, Austria.
During my training, I wanted to do something crazier. I signed up for The Four Deserts, a 1000km run through four deserts, in four extremes: the heat of Sahara; the fierce winds of the Gobi in China; the driest place on earth, the Atacama in Chile; and the coldest desert in the world, Antarctica. Back then, only 27 people in the world managed to complete it in one year. It was a self-sufficient race, so we had to carry everything necessary for us to survive a week in a desert (food, supplements, medical kit, etc.) on our backs. Together with three friends, we began The Four Deserts to challenge ourselves and raise money for charity. It was an amazing adventure, but not easy. We ran a marathon a day, sometimes covering between 76 – 90km distances at a stretch, carrying a 12kg backpack. It was an incredible physical and mental test, and when I crossed the finish line in Antarctica in November 2014, I had truly tested my capabilities.
But the biggest lesson I learnt didn’t come from pushing myself. During the Four Deserts, one of my three team mates committed suicide after silently battling Bipolar Disorder, which came as a huge shock to us all. It taught us the importance of balance; that it’s not only important to take care of our physical health, but also our emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing too.
I am 43 years old now and have learnt that there’s more to success than owning companies and crossing finish lines. I’ve learnt that anything is possible when you just put one foot in front of the other. Completing extreme races where I’ve pushed my body and mind to the brink gives me a great sense of joy and satisfaction. I don’t do it for the medals, but for myself, and it’s led to so many life lessons which I’ve shared in three books and a TEDx talk.
Extreme challenges and extreme sports are not for everyone, but there are other ways to discover your limits. I encourage people to fight their fears, to take a leap of faith, and at least give it a try. Jack Canfield once said, “Everything you want it life is on the other side of fear”. You never know where it will lead you and what amazing journey you will experience. Be brave, be bold, try, and let curiosity lead you to the beautiful unknown.
SKINS, thank you for your amazing products. Thank you for being with me (and on me) while running 1000km on the deserts and when crossing the finish line of an Ironman.
Daniel Lewczuk / Active Businessman