Saturday, March 31, 2007

Soap Box: Most People I Know Think I Am Crazy




‘Most People I know think that I am crazy’ Billy Thorpe

This title is to a book by Billy Thorpe and it captured my attention many years ago. It was 1998 and we were leaving to head back over sea’s to train in Germany and as I stood in the airport I saw the book and the title. It jumped out at me from the shelf and to this day I still love the song and the various memories I have associated with it. I share this because of Billy Thorpe’s passing recently and it made me reflect on the influence he had on my life. Not that I personally new him, but that there was something about his style that I found stimulating and interesting.

As a young kid I remember hearing the song with the same title that Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs played. I could recall enjoying it when it was played on the radio. A surfing video that I received not long after I began surfing was Nat Young’s history of Australian surfing and the song was one of the many classic rock songs that complimented the footage. I loved the lyrics and his voice was amazing. When I spotted the book on the stand I didn’t hesitate in buying it. The fascination for the words and the sound he created lead me to absorb the book in a way that really surprised me.

The stories of the early rock era in Australia were fantastic and that fact that my early childhood memories were entwined with this raw music. The images and movement of surfing were also very vivid even as I read about his experiences as a young rock singer. Billy Thorpe passed away recently and I found I reflected on all the connections that I associate with his names, the music, the book, surfing, sound and flow. Not to forget to way of exploration that that whole period seems to have engaged in through the late 60’s and 70’s. The birth of rock and roll, the change in surfing and the various influences this period has play in my life even though I was born in 1974. Maybe it was the stories my father told me of surfing adventures around Australia and the world. Maybe that adventurer spirit that he and some many other surfers and musicians of that time showed that had changed the face of cultures across the globe has a deep resonating effect that will be with me for ever. Then again that might be a stretch, but what I know is this. The power of Billy Thorpe’s voice and those lyrics stirred something inside of me. His book captured my imagination, which is not hard, but holding my attention is and the combination of sound, personality, expression and experiences made me take notice.

His passing was sad as I reflected on a life and figure of a person who obviously left his mark in more ways than one. Having never really enjoyed reading before then, it is so strange to think that this book brought writing to my attention. So now as I sit here tapping away on the computer I am grateful that for the vast reason I read that book titled, ‘most people I know think that I am crazy’. It began for me a joy in finding work that meant something to me. I loved the idea that he took the time to capture his experiences and shared them with a wider audience. Musical lyric are fascinating and over the year I have also enjoyed playing with words is a way that some might call poetry or prose. To me there is often a rhythm, a bounce, a flow to words and expression that is much like rowing and moving. Often it is remarked that doing what we do in rowing is crazy, but to those that care we find something special about it.

The perception is that being different and even left of centre is often seen as a negative. To be a sports person who wants to be the best at what you do is a little different. Particularly with sports an activities that challenge capacity. A certain mind set that could be regarded as almost crazy can actually be an advantages. The surfer who takes on large waves if often spoken about as having courage that verges on a crazed mindset. The climber who takes on the challenge of scaling a rock face that to most appears crazy. Well to them it is not crazy, but as we know they can be judged by the actions and the most they appear as they appear. So when I considering rowing and the works required to be successful at it, many people that I meet make comments that it sounds crazy. The blistered hands, the relentless pursuit, the obsessive nature of continually looking for improvement and the stare that is often witnessed prior to hitting the water before a major race. What I am saying that I am aware that many people I know think that I am a little crazy and I am ok with. At times I question the sanity of spending some many hours training, pushing, exploring and performing.

Billy Thorpe was a legendary rock singer and I am sure he understood that you need to be a bit crazy to expose your self in front of a crowd, to put your self out there, to make you self vulnerable. Any type of performance requires courage and on the biggest of occasion what is often needed is a little of the ability to let your self-go. If that is crazy then it's not a bad way to be. Having passion and a willingness to explore your capacity is an opportunity not to be missed. From the way he sand and the way he wrote his book I believe Billy Thorpe knew how to live. To go full throttle at something with out holding back can be a scary thing. The funny thing is over all the years of rowing what has become a way of approaching races has been to have an erratic style. That’s not to say I haven’t worked on consistency, it’s just that I have probably found that being erratic and keen to take risks has worked on many occasions.

What I am sure of here is that it has also frustrated my coaches because I would chop, change and chase after various things that could assist in improving my performance. Being somewhat unpredictable does in time become predictable. Chasing down a challenge is energising. Facing a fear and stepping out of the comfort zone can be uncomfortable and full of fear. To training some 25 hour a week for four years to race for 6 minutes and hopefully achieve success which by the way is measured the ability the cross an invisible finish line before the other competitors could be dare I say it considered crazy. Even the idea of doing it all for a bit a metal and one of gold for that matter certainly could be from some perspective a thing of crazed people.

Olympic fever can grip any normal person so tightly. It can make the sane do strange things. Host city’s commit to huge debt just to say they have been part of the Olympic experience. Athletes often sacrifice years to train and prepare for the brief moment of racing under the Olympic flame. The ordinary learn how to be extraordinary when it comes to being an Olympian. In mountaineering they have a term for what climbers get when they get close to the summit of Mount Everest. It’s called Everest fever and often they will risk their lives to reach the pinnacle. So maybe that is what it is, maybe I have felt close to the peak and as a result I have been willing to stretch, dig, challenge and confront what ever is need to make the assault to full capacity, to have that perfect race, to win gold. The young child who watches the games on television and wonders what it would be like is open to the possibility. Is it crazy to deny the great ability to imagine or crazy to ignore it? We’ve all been that child at some time, but some where along the road someone indicates that it is not possible to live your dream. My thinking is that if you can see it in your mind and feel it in your heart then you will be gripped by the fever and motivation will be not the concern. The concern will be dealing with those who don’t believe in the possibility. The world needs more crazy people to challenge the norm’s, to think outside the square and to break free of our comfort zones. Billy Thorpe did it and lived a glorious life. When I think of the situation I am in training every day and preparing for the moment in the future, I do it because I love the challenge. The blistered hands, sore back, the fatigue, aching muscles, the concentration, focus, passion, fear, frustration, love, gratitude and the connection are all part of the full experience and maybe, just maybe from the outside it could at times be considered crazy. Well then that is part of it to. In fact it's probably a great indicator that I am heading in the right direction because so many don’t seem to want to step from within the crowd. To make a difference, to be better, to stand out does require resilience and persistence. The funny thing is at a very early age we all have these qualities. What changes as we grow from the 2-3 year old child into adulthood?

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