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I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

"Lessons from the desert" by Stefan Danis

"Lessons from the desert" by Stefan Danis:

"The severe market crash in October 2008 changed my life. I started running to regain my health, both emotional and physical. Shortly after I took my first steps, I ran the Gobi March in China in June ’09, followed by the Atacama Crossing in Chile in ’10 and the Sahara Race in Egypt in ’11. In this post, I share a lesson learned from my experience running deserts."

Jul. 28, 2014 in the Metro:  

"Take a life lesson from running: When things get tough, stick to the plan":

When facing adversity with fear omnipresent, most of us will invariably choose the option of least resistance. We’ll choose whatever’s in front of our eyes without questioning what’s right for us.

After running the Gobi and the Atacama, I signed up for the Sahara Race along with eight other local executives to raise money for a charity. None had ever run an ultra-marathon before, let alone a multi-day one. Consequently, I was the de-facto “coach.” My brief to the group was daunting but simple: Build up to running long distances, but cross-train and stretch in equal measure.

Not unlike my own struggles when I prepared for my first race, they, too, fell into the trap. So worried about having a strong enough running base to complete the Sahara, they focused on doing just that: running. A lot! Despite knowing it would be best to vary the training and do what was best for their bodies, they kept on running, each time adding the strain of running’s repetitive motion which ultimately led to fatigue and injuries.

Most of us just can’t help ourselves. When under stress, if the little voice inside us is screaming to stop and think, it may just be time to listen. If not, we perpetuate doing what’s right in front of us as opposed to what’s right for us.

Oct. 20, 2014:

"What will drift away with the desert and stay solid on the ice?":

When adversity visits us, it is an invitation to reflect on how we can better prepare to face it effectively.

As I head out to Antarctica for my fourth multi-stage ultra-marathon, even though the race is identical in format to the previous ones, my preparation is vastly different.

For Antarctica, I applied the time-tested and simple review of determining what I will stop, start and continue to do, as well as considering what aspects of my preparation techniques need to be adjusted or changed.

Stop: Worrying! With experience and confidence, there is no use wasting energy fretting about it. I am just enjoying the journey irrespective of Antarctica’s unique challenge.

Start: I run with weight anklets to replicate the snowshoes or heavier shoes with crampons I will need during the race.

Continue: Being superstitious. I will use the same old and torn backpack.

Change: I have shortened my running stride to be lighter on the unpredictable snow and ice surface.

When adversity awaits us, be it personally or at work, we are forced to rapidly reclaim time to deal with the new issues we will encounter.

While becoming more effective and efficient might be enough to make it through, to thrive we also need to shed old activities to redirect energy to the new challenge.

In contrast, when not confronted with adversity, the most proactive response is to prepare for what is inevitably coming our way.

If we have already stopped certain activities, thus creating some slack in our routine, it is easier to seize the next challenge and turn it in an opportunity.

Oct. 27, 2014:

"To achieve your goals, focus on the ‘how’ or ‘why’ rather than the ‘what’":

I recently heard Glen Hunt, the chief transformation officer at Cossette, brilliantly describe how to achieve a bold outcome. He explained that most of us, as we work toward a goal, place more emphasis on the “what” instead of the “how” or “why.”

“We have the order wrong,” says Hunt, who defined the “how” as the guardrails for our behaviour, and the “why” as the passion we bring, as well as the deeply rooted motive, to the project.

As I depart to race Antarctica’s 250-kilometre ultra-marathon called The Last Desert, I’ve decided to take this message to heart.

As part of a team of three, our group must start and finish the race together and stay within 10 metres of each other at all times. Another team member and I entered the race as a pair, and then conducted a search to find a third willing to run as part of a team as opposed to solo. In the end we found Michael Gilgen in Switzerland. The focus of the initial recruiting conversation was based on “what” we were there to try to do — to win.

During the previous three desert races I competed in, I observed that not all the winning teams were the most gifted runners. However, all acted as a single cohesive unit with a high degree of trust, a chain of command, a purpose, and a no-I-in-team selflessness. Although my teammates and I came together with a clear objective, it would be foolish to have these set expectations and make this long journey to the end of the world about winning. That “what” is more likely to happen if we focus on the “how” and the “why” so that we can make the journey extraordinary irrespective of the outcome.

When our team meets in Argentina, we will then sail for two days to Antarctica to race. It will be just enough time to create the “how,” our guardrail of principles, a leadership system and conflict resolution protocols. We will figure out how to interconnect each of our “whys” so we can tap into all the energy we are blind to and can pour it all into the team.

Nov. 3, 2014:

"Team building: Making strangers into comrades":

Many of life’s projects involve teamwork, and at times, the team is made up of individuals who do not know each other but are coming together for a common purpose.

The question is, how do you bond strangers? This is what we are attempting to do.

Our team of three runners met for the first time today in picturesque Ushuaia, located near the southern tip of South America, where the Patagonia Mountains meet the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Our task is simple: come together within three days before the start of the Antarctica race, a race comprising six marathons in five days. We are aligned on our goal, which is to run our collective fastest and challenge to win.

Today, we met and started to focus on how we could win. We engaged ourselves in team-building activities to establish camaraderie, as well as having explorative conversations to understand each other’s motivations, values and emotional triggers. These activities allowed us to develop an aligned team with tactics and a strategy for the Antarctica race.

We have just enough time to collectively agree on what is within our control so we can execute our plan. For the myriad of things outside of our control, most will be mapped out so we can discuss our preferred team responses ahead of time, thus increasing what we perceive to be within our influence. For the rest of the time, hopefully our bond will be strong enough so that we can align rapidly to a course of action even if we disagree.

Nov. 11, 2015: "At times we need others to show us what is possible within ourselves": I cut out this article by Stefan Danis in Metro on Mar. 31, 2014.

After running four marathons in four days, the long day of the Gobi March brought a new challenge: 85 kilometres, a double marathon. After battling for nine hours with various contenders in my age category, it was now down to two of us with 20 km to go. Sweltering and exhausted in the searing sun, I announced “I can’t run anymore, want to jog?” Within minutes, our pace degenerated from a jog, to a brisk walk, to a walk. Done like an overcooked dinner, we willed ourselves toward the finish line, now 15 km away.

It was at that moment that another competitor ran by us as if we were standing still.

I remember panicking; I had everything to lose as I was leading in my age category, but I was emotionally and physically spent. After debating with myself for three minutes if I should, could, or would respond, I decided to try to outrun him.

I never caught up. Although defeated, I later learned that despite losing that race segment, I had managed to run one of the fastest 15 km of my life. Looking back on the event, I was able to move from profound disappointment to an incredible sense of gratitude: I was shown by a competitor what I could do that I didn’t know I could do.

Sometimes, we are so completely blind to what we can do.

And too often, we just resent the individual pushing us until we clue in that we often need someone else to push us enough to trigger what is possible within ourselves.


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