I recently had the pleasure of enjoying a long weekend mini break with my family, my wife and 2 children, to the North-east coast. For those of you who have never been to the North-east, Northumberland is one of the most beautiful and unfrequented places I have visited in the UK. The weather has always been kind to us there, and this last weekend was no different.
We stayed on a caravan park, which was first for us, since we don't normally seek out crowds, but prefer quiet isolation and wilderness in our time together, to re-connect away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, and disconnect from the world of technology, the internet and social media. However, my wife's thoughts on this occasion were that the convenience of a club house with a swimming pool, sauna, jacuzzi and a gym to keep me entertained would suit on this occasion, and she was quite right. We had a wonderful time together and it was a pleasure and a privilege for me to spend complete days with our rapidly growing children, who are now three and three quarters (I am repeatedly informed by my three and three quarter year old son) and my now one year old daughter. I was lucky enough to be given time to visit the gym. Gyms are not normally places that I frequent, preferring to spend time in the outdoors, either running, cycling or preferably rock climbing. However the season for rock climbing has passed, and the convenience of a gym, meaning that I would only spend an hour or so away from the family, was too much of a temptation to pass.
Now, I am by my nature competitive and this is a standing joke amongst my friends who rib me about it endlessly. I have to say it is a good natured competitiveness, and for me, I am only happy to be competitive if everybody is having fun within that environment. I take no pleasure in being competitive if someone is not having a good time. Nevertheless, I found myself in the gym, which was quiet because it was 'off season' and I was spending time just pootling around using the stationary bikes and the weights machines and the rowing machine. Whilst wondering around I happened to see the noticeboard had a 'best of' section. There was best of how many pull ups you could do, best of how many sit ups you could do and there was best of all sorts of exercises within the gym. The one that caught my eye was the 500metre sprint on the rowing machine. It's been 10years since I have spent time on a rowing machine but this type of exercise I used to really enjoy as a student because of the pain and suffering that it would cause and it is a great way to test your physical limits and your mental strength. Seeing this sign was like a red rag to a bull and I couldn't resist a quick blast.
As I strolled back into the caravan that night, my wife Bex could see quite clearly that I had a good time by the silly grin on my face, since I had demolished the fastest time by about 7 seconds. However, Seafield Caravan Park in the quiet town of Seahouses is clearly not a training mecca for elite athletes and being able to come top of the leader board for a 500 metre rowing sprint is no real achievement. This got me thinking that it's very easy to find safety and comfort by positioning yourself within an environment that allows you to shine without any true effort. Surely it would better in any aspect of life, be it a chosen activity, or in the workplace to be surrounded by people who are more talented, more experienced, more intellectual or generally harder working and gain inspiration from their efforts and skills and therefore not be the best, but perhaps fly in their wake or alongside? We should be encouraged by those around us and to see the good in what individuals can do and achieve, and in turn encourage those who are new or developing their skills. I for one am far happier to be mediocre amongst greatness than to come first amongst the inexperienced or less skilled.