Taking on challenges is built into the DNA of Jack Kautz and 13 years ago he took on one of his greatest physical challenges: swimming the English Channel. As Jack relayed the story of completing this incredible feat we walked away with some great lessons. Each of these can be applied to any area of your life – family, career, relationships, or health and fitness.
Set Audacious Goals
We hear a lot about setting goals that are achievable. And there’s nothing wrong with doing that, we all should be doing it. And while it’s beneficial to have those types of goals it’s also important to put some goals out there that will challenge you in a significant way.
Setting a goal that is beyond your reach, an audacious goal, you could easily fail at should be on everyone’s list. For Jack, swimming the English Channel and joining an elite group of fewer than 2000 people who have done it, was one of his audacious goals.
Once you have yours set it’s time to dig in and know what you’re up against and what you’ll need to do to achieve it.
Preparing For Your Audcious Goal
Achieving any goal begins and ends with your mindset. Having a clear vision of what you’re going after and then having the resolve to see it through is critical to success.
You’ll need this mindset throughout the journey towards your goal because the conditions and situations you encounter along the way will never be perfect.
Jack needed this mindset as he set out to swim the English Channel. Even though he dropped into the water at 3:45 AM to begin his swim, the real work started months earlier with his training. For several months leading up to the attempt, Jack was swimming 4000-8000 yards per day including long open water swims. And he was doing all of this with two shoulders that weren’t in the best shape. The conditions weren’t perfect.
Not only was it pitch black when Jack started his swim but the English Channel was a chilly 61 degrees, choppy, rough, and pulled him in every direction as he swam. The busy shipping waterway with its wind and waves was relentless in challenging Jack’s resolve. The conditions weren’t perfect.
The English Channel is 21 miles across but it took a total of 33 miles for Jack to complete the swim due to tide changes. Keep in mind, most swimmers could cross the Channel within two tide changes, but with extreme conditions, rough water, and not being a very fast swimmer it took Jack three tide changes. Luckily, Jack was already in cardio shape leading up to his swim. During the twelve months leading up to the swim, he had completed two Ironman Triathlons and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Staying Focused When You Feel Like Panicking
As part of Jack’s training regiment, he would do open water swims, including the San Francisco Bay. And it was during these times he had some close encounters with sea life. On one occasion as he was swimming near the Golden Gate Bridge something kept coming up and bumping in. As Jack says, “this is the point that panic set in but there’s no way to out swim anything, so you just have to stay calm and hope for the best!”
This is a great picture of life as well. There are plenty of things that will “bump” into us and instead of giving into fear and panic, we have to remain calm and keep moving forward.
Have a Strong Support System
Obviously, swimming is a one-person sport but throughout Jack’s journey across the English Channel, he had a team following him in a boat. They were there to provide moral support and help him stay hydrated and fueled with food.
The boat followed him and every half hour would throw him a rope that a bottle attached to it. Within 10-15 seconds, he would drink the liquid that gave him about 600 calories. They provided him with emotional and physical “fuel” that kept him going.
On the road to achieving your goal make sure you have others around you that are encouraging you, pushing you, and when needed “throwing you a rope” with needed fuel.
Hold Yourself Accountable
Jack knew that not only would the swim require intense physical and mental preparation along with a great team to support him but he knew he would need to be accountable. So, in the year leading up to his swim, he made it public to friends and family about his attempt to swim the English Channel.
The thought of not succeeding and letting down the people he had told kept his mind on track and focused on the task at hand.
Focus on the Finish Line
It was twelve hours later and Jack was within a few miles of completing his trek. With no wetsuit and waves that continued to pound him, he dug deep. His crew loaded him up with peanut butter and chocolate and he pressed on.
After 15 hours and 11 minutes of pushing his body to the limit, consuming over 30,000 calories during and still losing 10 pounds, Jack completed his swim across the English Channel.
The major achievement of what Jack had just accomplished is magnified even more when understanding that five boats, three relay teams, and one other solo swimmer had all attempted to cross the English Channel at the same time as Jack. But, Jack was the only one that crossed the finish line successfully.
Today there aren’t many weeks that go by without Jack thinking about achieving that audacious goal. And while Lodi, California is thousands of miles away from Dover, England the lessons learned are never far away.
Set an audacious goal today and go for it!
Fail or succeed you’ll live with no regrets.