Do you energize your dream or your nightmare?

Today is August 20 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “do you energize your dream or your nightmare?” People who navigate the chaos have dreams as well as nightmares; they just focus their energy on the dreams. William James Adams, better known by his stage name, is an American musician, rapper, singer, songwriter, entrepreneur, actor, DJ, record producer and philanthropist. He is best known as a founding member of the hip hop group The Black-Eyed Peas with whom he has received multiple awards. Adams said “I see it, working on my dream, that’s my job. If I am going to pay attention to my nightmare, I should be able to work on my dream. One of them will take my energy, I'd rather give my energy to my dream than my nightmare.” Albert Ernest Clifford Young (Cliff Young) is one such person who energized his dreams.

Born the eldest son and the third of seven children of Mary and Albert Ernest Young on 8 February 1922, Young grew up on a farm in Beech Forest in southwestern Victoria where his family lived on a farm close to 2,000 acres in size with approximately 2,000 sheep. As a child he was forced to round up the stock on foot as the family were very poor during the depression and could not afford horses.

Young eventually started competing in marathons and ultra-marathons including the Melbourne Marathon where he ran a respectable time of 3.21.41in 1979. He would go on to compete in 1980, 1981, 1982, 1984 and 1987 with a personal best of 3.02.53 in 1980 aged 58.

In late 1982, after training for months around the Otway Ranges, Young attempted to break New Zealander Siegfried "Ziggy" Bauer's then world record for 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of 11 days and 23 hours. The attempt took place in Colac's Memorial Square. Young had to abandon the world record attempt just after halfway at 500 miles. Reflecting on the failed attempt, Young wrote that he and his support team were inexperienced and ill-prepared.

At 61 years of age, Young then decided to pursue his dream of competing in the Sydney to Melbourne Ultra Marathon, an 875 kilometer (544 mile) race in 1983. The race organizers, worried about his health, asked if he'd ever run a long-distance race before. He said no. They asked him what made him think he could run this race and he said, "I'm a farmer. Once I spent three days running non-stop with no sleep, rounding up my sheep before a major storm came in, so I think I can do this."

The race organizers still thought he should stay out of the competition. With some more coaxing they finally acquiesced, and when everyone took running fast, Cliff ran slowly. Young didn't know he was supposed to run for 16 hours and sleep for 8, and repeat that process to the end, so when everyone went to sleep he was so far behind no one was awake to tell him to go to bed, and they were up and gone before he got there.

This went on for two days, but on the third day, while everyone was sleeping, Cliff ran by them again, with no one telling him to sleep. He claimed afterwards that during the race, he imagined he was running after sheep and trying to outrun a storm. The Westfield run took him five days, 15 hours, and four minutes, almost two days faster than the previous record for any run between Sydney and Melbourne.

All six competitors who finished the race broke the old record. Upon being awarded the prize of A$10,000 (equivalent to $32,067 in 2018), Young said that he did not know there was a prize and that he felt bad accepting it as each of the other five runners who finished had worked as hard as he did—so he split the money equally between them, keeping none. Despite attempting the event again in later years, Young was unable to repeat this performance or claim victory again.

For today’s reflection, it is important to remember that anyone navigating the chaos of translating one dream after another into reality and practicing the art of living well has both dreams and nightmares. Some questions to consider are:

  • Are you energizing your nightmare or your dream?

  • If your nightmare is your focus, why do you think that is?

  • Why are you holding back from pursuing your dream?

  • Can you pursue your dream in a manner different than others? For example, Young continued to run without sleeping like the other runners.