So the time has come for me to embark on 2 key life goals that have both come to fruition this week.  The first is as I embark on a 300 mile cycle challenge from London to Paris and the second as I launch my new independent consultancy.  Is this a coincidence? I will let you decide as you review and compare my 2 goals below.

Firstly, 12 months ago I wanted to achieve a number of personal goals:

  1. Do something inspirational and for a good cause
  2. Get fitter and lose weight
  3. Do something special with my family

So, when I saw on Facebook in July 2017 an advert offering up the challenge to cycle 300 miles from London to Paris in aid of Alzheimer’s Society (as a good friend of ours had just completed the 2017 event), I sent a message to both my sons, thinking they would reject the idea immediately.  But, unanimously within a few minutes they both came back with the same answer, i.e. “let’s do this, father!”

There was no going back now, we all signed up immediately and we were committed, it was happening.  We also invited my cousin, who was a big cycling fanatic, and he accepted the challenge immediately.  We were now 4 and best known in the social media sphere as “Boys do London to Paris 2018 for Alan Witts and Alzheimers Society”.

The reason for selecting Alzheimer’s Society was that my dear old Dad suffers from Dementia and has been in a care home for a couple of years now.  My mother did an amazing job caring for him at home but he deteriorated too much for her to be able to continue to provide 24 hour a day care for him.  This was our opportunity to raise some funds for a cause very close to all our hearts and to try and make a difference so future generations do not have to suffer the pain and heartbreak associated with this terrible disease.

So, how the heck was I going to ride 300 miles over 4 days?  That seemed very unachievable at the time, but also a massive personal challenge which would take me well outside of my comfort zone for the next 12 months.

So, following my passion for David Taylor from Naked Leader’s principles for making real transformation happen, the four of us started to prepare:

1: Knowing where we need to go

That was very simple = cycle to Paris from 25th to 28th July 2018 travelling 300 miles across 4 days and to arrive in Paris in time to welcome in the Tour de France on 29th July.

2: Understanding where we are now

This principle being that to get to where we need to be, we first need to understand where we are now.  This helped us look at our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of where we were today.  On the strengths side, we were a team very much committed to the cause; on the weaknesses side, we all needed new bikes and we had never travelled anywhere near this type of distance let alone over consecutive days. It was a massive opportunity to achieve something fantastic whilst making a real difference to future generations to try and save them from the pain and suffering that happens when a loved one has this terrible disease.  The only real threat was of us not putting in the hard miles to work towards our goal.  But surely we had 12 months to prepare, this should be a walk in the park (or a ride across the channel to Paris)?

3: Knowing what we need to do to achieve our goals

So, this required us to build our plan of action to ensure we prepared as best as we could to achieve our goal.  This naturally went through a number of iterations as at first it was the high level actions such as “get our bikes”, “start training”, “keep the training up”, etc…  As time went on the plan became more granular as details became apparent and what was required for sponsorship, travel, etc… were revealed.  Having a joint plan that we were all focused on has really helped in our preparation and now we are at the final stage of “getting ready to depart on this amazing adventure”.

We also needed to raise significant sponsorship and we were collectively committed to £6,2000; which we needed to raise before we even cycled the 300 miles.

This is where we started a campaign of social media awareness aiming to create fun around our whole preparation whilst at the same time using it as a lever to encourage sponsorship.

4: Doing it

This just leaves us with the goal this week of putting everything we have done above in to action and riding the 300 miles from London to Paris for my dear old dad.  I’m sure he would be very, very proud of us, if only he could comprehend what we were doing!

As an aside, please enjoy this little video we have made for our adventure.

So, what have I learnt from this amazing journey over the past 12 months?

Well the biggest one for me was that setting a goal is key (even if at the time it doesn’t seem achievable).  Then put your action plan in place to break the goal down in to achievable chunks of activity.

A little anecdote here of where I found myself in December 2017 to underline my point that none of this is easy, or meant to be.  My training was going ok but I was never going further than around 30 miles and was feeling very tired just doing that.  It all then became very unachievable and I was battling my subconscious.  I needed this all to feel achievable and the distance from what I was achieving compared to what needed to be achieved were miles apart, literally.  I was broken at this point and all I could see was taking the easy way out. How was I going to tell my lads I just couldn’t do this?

Then after visiting my dad one day, spending time with him and remembering all he had done for me, how could I let him, my boys and myself down by taking the easy way out?  I came up with a plan to help me do what I needed to do, i.e. make this all feel achievable by cycling a distance that feels much more aligned to the goal of 80 miles per day for 4 consecutive days.

For the following few weekends, instead of cycling with my lads up the best hills around that kept them happy but exhausted me, I went out on my own around a flatter route and for the first weekend I did 50 miles, the next 60 and I built up to 70 miles at my peak.  It was all now achievable in my head (and that has been the hardest muscle to train!) and I had unlocked a massive blocker to achieving my goal.  Now it was game on and please keep quiet Mr Subconscious!

I am now fitter than I had probably been in my 20’s and 30’s at the peak of my football playing days and at 53 this fitness bug has energised me!

All that is left now is the small task of getting ourselves up to the event on Tuesday and then setting off early on Wednesday to cycle for 4 days as follows:

  • Day 1 – London to Dover then Calais (81 miles)
  • Day 2 – Calais to Arras (77 miles)
  • Day 3 – Arras to Compiègne (78 miles)
  • Day 4 – Compiègne to Paris (59 miles)
  • Day 5 – Enjoy the arrival of the Tour de France in to Paris (0 miles!)

What could possibly go wrong with all that preparation and the will to succeed?  Return soon for my post cycle challenge blog!

So how has this life changing challenge impacted on my professional life?

Well, it has certainly taught me that if you have the drive and ambition you can achieve anything, so when the opportunity arose recently for me to achieve one of my other life goals, namely to setup and manage my own company, I jumped at the opportunity. Previously I would have turned my back on it and put it in the too difficult column and let Mr Subconscious win that one again.

This time it was all very different…

The personal awareness and achievement of the last 12 months has lead me to a place where I feel like I am climbing out of a box that has constrained me for too long.  Now my motivating phrase is graciously borrowed from pop icon Eminem:

“Will the real David Witts please stand up!”

To me this is all about unleashing the real fun and professional “me” that people know and love and bringing this in to everything I do from now on. What have I created?  Well my focus is now on my own company David Witts Consultancy where I bring my 36+ years of professional and real life experience to the fore, and importantly to me; delivering the things I am very, very good at and enjoy and using this knowledge and experience to help organisations truly transform.  My passion for transformation and improvement has the opportunity to shine providing real benefit to those organisations that I work with.

The 4 areas my company will initially be focusing on are:

1: Public sector transformation consultancy

Building on my 36 years’ experience working in UK Public Sector, with 28 years in Local Government and 8 years working with many Local Authorities, Housing Associations and Central Government agencies. Through working with these organisations, I have helped them embrace the culture changes required for modern service delivery by gaining a full understanding of their customers’ needs and redesigning their services around these.

2: Sports development consultancy

Building on many years of successful applications that have enabled sports clubs to obtain major funding from many sources to achieve their sports development plans.

3: eSports development consultancy

Building on my experience of over 20 years in the gaming industry delivering game development advice and gaming tournaments to offer consultancy, event management and event administration services to enable others to deliver amazing eSports activities.

4: Digital consultancy for local businesses

Building on my experience of helping local organisations with their digital marketing activities, hosting and website management services, I provide support to small businesses to achieve their digital aspirations.

Quite an eclectic mix you might say?

But all things I am very passionate about, I have the skills and experience that I can share with organisations to help them on their equivalent of my cycle journey from London to Paris to drive their business to achieve what might currently seem unachievable.  My challenge will be balancing the demands across these four areas and ensuring that each and every customer receives the very best of my services.

Preparing for and following through on an enormous personal challenge which did not seem possible, has led to unleashing the inner me and driving me to focus on what I am passionate about ; setting up my own company to support this and deliver real value to my customers and, importantly, balancing my family life with my work life.

Both take preparation and hard work but now the journey starts, let’s make this happen!

Thanks for making it this far in my launch blog and watch this space as I let you know what the real life experience of cycling from London to Paris was like and read regularly how the real David Witts is now standing up!

If any of my services are of interest in helping your organisation develop, please contact me.

Also, if you would like to support our ride from London to Paris for Alzheimer’s Society, there is still time to make a donation at my JustGiving page. Many thanks in advance.