I met Tofe Evans in September 2016, as we both tackled the Kokoda Track in very different ways and for very different reasons. I was part of a No Roads Education trip, volunteering in local schools to mentor teachers and help improve educational outcomes for students. Tofe was completing the track in record time with a couple of mates as part of his Wounded Pelicans cancer research fundraising venture which involved completing forty endurance events in a single year – craziness personified! At different life stages and with vastly different experiences behind us, we had one thing in common; we were both there to help others.
I love Tofe’s explanation for choosing the pelican as inspiration when searching for a name for his fundraising ventures with The Wounded Pelicans. The wounded part stands for persistence and refusing to let injury or other challenges hold you back. A large, ungainly-looking creature, I wouldn’t have considered a pelican to be inspirational. However, as Tofe explains, a pelican can hold more in its beak than seems possible. He continues to achieve more than seemed possible, proving others wrong and exceeding his own expectations. In our own ways, we also hold and deal with more than seems possible as we go about our everyday activities. We are, in fact, all wounded pelicans to some extent.
Tofe has built a career in writing and speaking about practical resilience which he believes comes about as the result of interplay between adversity, mindset and gratitude. He recently completed a book launch tour, speaking in cities in the USA, Canada and Australia. I was honoured to attend the Brisbane launch of his book Everyone Has a Plan Until Sh!t Hits The Fan with my daughter and a friend.
I’d recommend this book to anyone looking to get out of a rut, improve outlook, push limits and approach things in a fresh, new way. Tofe’s writing style makes some pretty complicated ideas easily accessible. Sharing from his own and others’ experiences, Tofe demonstrates the importance of building Practical Resilience and provides practical ideas you can put into action to make it work for you. It has certainly provided me with some thought-provoking reading.
On beginning to read Everyone Has a Plan Until Sh!t Hits The Fan, I was struck by the casual conversational tone Tofe uses, almost as though you are sitting and chatting to him over coffee as you read. This makes for easy reading but beware you don’t rush it. There’s some good stuff here and you’ll want to spend time thinking it through and applying it to your own situation. As different as my situation is to Tofe’s, I found many ideas I could make use of and some strategies to put into place in my own life. Although a large part of Tofe’s journey has involved training for and completing a wide range of endurance events, there’s also plenty of food for thought and practical suggestions for those of us who have no desire to become endurance athletes. After all, life itself is an endurance event, an ultra-marathon rather than a sprint, and strategies which apply to athletes can also be used by the rest of us.
“Gratitude is the fastest way to change your definition of reality.” – Tofe Evans.
Tofe’s overall focus is on gratitude and he believes “we need more kindness and giving in the world today”. He is now able to look back on his darkest days with gratitude, as they have made him the person he is today as well as providing him with experiences he can use to help others. Tofe uses speaking engagements, endurance events and now his book to help others and believes if he reaches and helps just one person, he has achieved success. Linking causes to events, he raises awareness and funds for research and to assist those living with various life challenges. Tofe completed the Everest Ultramarathon to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis, linking the severely reduced oxygen levels at that extreme altitude to the difficulties CF sufferers have breathing every day and completed a double marathon (80km) stand up paddle board to literally ‘stand up’ for youth and encourage them to dream big. These are just a few of his adventures.
I found the chapters on neural pathways and mind hacks especially interesting. Common cognitive biases are simply explained and ways of rewiring neural pathways to overcome them suggested. As Tofe says, we can make these biases work for, rather than against us.
“Follow your curiosity. If you’re still curious, you’re doing the right thing for you.”
Tofe speaks about investing spare time in learning a hobby or pursuing an interest alongside paid employment. This ‘side hustle curiosity project” may be with the intention of making it pay and eventually leaving your current job, or just to enrich your life. He advocates seeking activities which put you into a state of flow, described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as a state where time flies and one falls into a state of fluid motion, with deep enjoyment, creativity and total involvement. Through using personality tests to identify strengths and weaknesses, Tofe argues we can work towards our strengths whilst collaborating with others to get assistance with our weaknesses.
“Adversity is a blessing in disguise.”
Tofe discusses how to replace fear with optimism and trust and believes “adversity is a blessing in disguise. It is our greatest teacher in life.” Amongst other strategies, he suggests reading biographies to gain courage from both the struggles and successes of others and to try to learn as much from the mistakes of others as possible.
Go the extra mile …. one step at a time.
Applicable to all areas in life, Tofe recommends a focus on doing a little extra every time, whether that be an extra rep at the gym, making an extra phone call, walking or reading for an extra five minutes. Small incremental increases eventually build up skill and confidence levels, leading to the ability to approach difficult tasks more easily. Perceived limits are slowly but surely surpassed through a gradual progression. Anyone can do a little extra. It’s all about taking the regular baby steps which eventually result in larger leaps forward.
You can get the first chapter of Everyone Has a Plan Until Sh!t Hits The Fan free or order your own copy of the entire book via Tofe’s website here. It is offered on a pay what you feel basis and 10% of all sales go to LIVIN, helping reduce the stigma associated with mental health.
At Tofe’s Brisbane book launch with my daughter in March 2018.