Fatherhood Challenges

Fatherhood Challenges – Why Did I Run 7,000 Miles

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Fatherhood certainly comes with challenges. Watching your children growing up, learning, achieving their first successes and develop their personality is the best feeling in the world. But as with most things in life, great things don’t come without hard work and challenges. Here are 14 lessons fathers can give to their children.

The Ultra-Run of Southeast Asia

It all started with believing in myself that I could do it, that I could run 7,000 miles.

There were many reasons why I chose to run such a long distance. Over time and after passing the next miles, these reasons changed. Several things that I wanted to achieve during this trip failed. As a result, I had to change the goals I was pursuing and look for other solutions. 

Several values ​​in my life have evolved along with my personal development, achievements and growing ambitions. Over time, I lost interest in a few of the things I was fighting for at the beginning. I saw no reason to continue my efforts in this direction. But the main reasons I started the 7,000-mile run have never changed.

RELATED: Adverse Childhood Experiences And It’s Impact

Fatherhood Challenges #1: Be the person you didn’t have when you were a kid.

I wanted to set an example for my two sons. An example for which they are still too young to understand. But wisdom will come with age and I know that they will learn very valuable lessons from it. 

Not everything in my life turned out as I wanted when I was a teenager. I didn’t have a perfect childhood like most of us probably do. One traumatic experience changed me and pushed into over 30 years of depression.

Past experiences, self-doubt, negative thoughts and behavior, and generational patterns prevented me to become the man I wanted to be when I was a young boy. 

Fatherhood Challenges #2: You have to feel it and heal it.

The irony of fate is that if we repeatedly tell ourselves that we do not want to be like someone from whom we have experienced a lot of pain, we close ourselves not only to that person but also to the whole world and ourselves. We push away the pain by not dealing with the challenges in life, but by shifting them to the background. Most likley we will never solve the increasing emotional problems that have a consequent dramatic effect on our mental health and happiness. At least until the time, we will conciously act to heal our past experiences.

A few months ago, I was still angry with how my life turned out and what was the reason for it. Now I know that the patterns that I repeated and learned from my grandparents, parents and the society were not intentional and no one is to blame for it. 

Fatherhood Challenges #3: Understanding the role of the father.

Each of us wants our children to have a better life than we have. This is what grandparents want for my parents, then my parents for me, and so do I for my sons. But it does not always turn out as we wish. 

Our mind will guide us first through the path which we well know since we were a kids, repeating generational patterns. Following our great-grandparents, grandparents, parents and passing these patterns on to our children. Even though we want them to behave differently, and to be better than we are. 

What we want our children to learn from us is not always the one they learn as a result. It is not enough to say learn and work hard son, to have a good life and be happier than I was. If we want our children to have a better life than ours, we must show them how to do it.

Breaking the generational cycle was the main reason for which I decided to run 7,000 miles.

Fatherhood Challenges #4: We can change it.

By my example, I want to show to people who have a similar life story to mine that that’s not a life sentence. They can change it. 

Inside ourselves, we have enough strength and energy to oppose this and to take our life on a different track. Nothing is lost, no matter how old we are and what life story we have. By changing petty behaviors and disciplines every day we can achieve anything we want. Be who we want to be. Do what we have always dreamed of. 

It doesn’t matter how deep we are on the path we took in our lives many years ago. We can turn around, slow down, speed up and just go in a different direction.

I’m not saying it will be easy. It wasn’t for me and it will probably not be for everyone else, but any of us can do it.

Fatherhood Challenges #5: Follow what makes you happy.

I went to Asia for the first time in 2015 escaping the pain of loneliness. It was a few months after I broke up with my wife and wasn’t living with my boys. Being alone for 5 weeks on an empty beach, only with books and a notebook, without the noise of the outside world, helped me discover who I am, and reach my deepest feelings and desires.

In Asia, I created my new life, set new goals and choose the path to achieve them.

Another time I visited Asia at the end of 2017 when I lost my company. I decided that now is the time for more radical changes in my life.

It was my first extremely active expedition. I spent 9 weeks building my passions. Running, cycling, kayaking and rock-climbing on eight islands in Thailand and Cambodia. In Asia, I fell in love with myself for the first time in my life. I accepted who I am and came to terms with my past. Here I learned how to be happy and I found my life purpose to empower people to climb toward the best version of themselves, whoever they want to be in life.

Fatherhood Challenges #6: It’s okay to be misunderstood.

Many people often ask me why I choose Asia for my runs, so far away from home and my sons.

This is a question that I now answer with great pride, but before I was ashamed to answer honestly. 

My dad always told me, “Tomasz, the job must be done.” This is how he lived his entire life. In the morning he left for work, came back for dinner and went to his next job. Often repeating the same cycle seven days in a row. Once a year we went for a camping in Bieszczady in Poland. He gives us what he could.

This one sentence: “Tomasz, the job must be done”, which he repeats over and over, has stuck to me all my life. What I learned from him allowed me to pass on my feet 7,000 miles. 

I am very grateful to my dad for this lesson, but I want my sons to learn from me how to be happy. Not how to work hard whole life. What to do to be strong, and mentally and physically healthy. I want them to know that they can always turn from a path that does not serve them. 

Their personal happiness must always come first, ahead of anyone else. I know that in our society this choice is still controversial. But only in this way we can influence the happiness of our offspring. If we want better life for our children, we must take care of ourselves first. They will do the same.

My life based in London, but my soul belong to Asia. This is my happy place. My father showed me his happy place in Bieszczady in Poland. I’m showing to my sons what is making me happy.

Fatherhood Challenges #7: Raise the bar.

The third time I went to Asia in April 2019. Initially, I should stay here for 3-4 months and cover 5 million steps by running, cycling and training cross-fitness. I was in very advanced talks with a few sponsors intresting in my plans and investment in my endeavors. 

It took me 101 days to complete 5 million steps. During this time, I run and cycle through 3 islands in Indonesia (Bali, Nusa Penida, Gili Trawangan), the Malaysian part of Borneo, three islands in the Philippines (Luzon, Cebu and Bohol) and I completed the challenge on the island of Taiwan. 

The problem arose when it came to the results and statistics on social involvement. I couldn’t get through social media and get enough results to get funding and my sponsorship contracts ended in failure.

From Taiwan I went straight to northern Vietnam. After nearly 3 weeks of rest, I started running 7,000 miles from Hanoi to Bali. Along the ocean coast of Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Sumatra and Java.

I learned lessons from the mistakes I made, this time focusing on other solutions to get sponsorship contracts.

Fatherhood Challenges #8: The purpose is your compass.

I have learned everything in life is a matter of decision. Not luck and not by chance, but by decision. Later working in this direction. 

I started helping people by building a charity organization. Unfortunately, being in Asia, having no previous experience in managing a charity and no documented results, I couldn’t get grant. I decided I will enforce my resolution through methods I can finance myself. 

Now, I am an ambassador for the Wave Trust charity organization and also support several other charity events and campaigns. I offer a wide range of seminars, courses, workshops and keynote speeches to charities and nonprofits in the United Kingdom, Europe and Asia to support people experienced childhood traumas and the organizations that help them.

Fatherhood Challenges #9: Building a business isn’t as important as building a reputation.

I realized that I first need to build a strong reputation, then I can convince others of my ideas. It is not easy to start from a highly indebted position. This was in my case after losing 3 companies in 9 years. But systematic and disciplined daily work can achieve radical life changes. 

In my case, the breakthrough came when Red Bull became interested in my race and it was not by accident. After running the first 1,000 miles, I decided it’s time to tell the world about my work. I sent 279 emails to UK journalists asking for the interview and one of the three who got interested was Red Bull. I used this one article to start speaking at universities and then I started building my reputation beased on this.

Fatherhood Challenges #10: Life will be testing you if the path you have taken was meant for you.

I was devastated when I had to stop running because of the COVID-19 restrictions. It took me 6 months to run 3,500 miles from Hanoi to Singapore, a lot of effort, pain, tears and sacrifices. 

To get from Singapore to Sumatra from where I was to continue my run, I had to go back by bus to Malaysia. Four hours before the Malaysian borders closed, I managed to get to Sumatra with the last ferry, but couldn’t run any further. The Indonesian government has decided to partially close the country. Life on the streets did not change, but it was impossible to move from town to town. 

I stuck in a small city in the northern part of Sumatra, with no way to return to the UK. There was no one speaking English there and after dark, I did not leave the hotel room because it was too dangerous for a foreigner. People have become aggressive seeing me, blaming for bringing the virus to their country. 

I was often accosted during the day, detained, they shouted for me words in English that are known no matter what country you live in. I had to find a way to survive there. After two weeks, I started running again. I chose one route along the ocean through villages and jungle. 

I run three times a day smiling and waving to all the local people, and I was finally accepted. Children started running with me, overtook me on their bikes and the residents stopped harassing me. 

Fatherhood Challenges #11: Never give up on what you believe.

I wanted to finish my run. No one will criticize me for terminating the run at that time, but I will not achieve anything by stopping now. 

I divided the remaining 3,500 miles into 268 half marathons, running 2-4 times a day. At first glance, this may seem like a killing challenge, but for me, it was just like going to work for 8 hours, but a work that I love. Since the beginning of 2018, I run 10 to even 60 miles almost every day. It is a great effort, but the body gets used to it and regenerates very quickly.

Fatherhood Challenges #12: Use the tools you have.

I was running 6-8 hours a day, starting around 5 – 6 am, so I would finish my race at 2 pm at the latest. I run alone and through small villages where there were no tourists, so the rest of the day, after a short rest, I was building my company. 

Since the beginning of 2018, I have sent 5,867 emails to potential partners, sponsors and agencies in all countries through which I have run and in the United Kingdom where I live permanently. I had to look for solutions that I could adapt to the situation I was in at the moment. 

My goal was to run 7,000 miles no matter what difficulties I encountered on my way, but I had to solve these difficulties every day to keep running the next day. 

With every email sent, I gained more confidence, had more and more experience, and more and more companies responded to my offers. What at the beginning was a fight with over 30 years of depression turned into an international business. 

I didn’t have any other work tools at my disposal. I was running with an 8 kg backpack, 4.8 kg of which was my old antique laptop, so if I was carrying it, I use it. 

Fatherhood Challenges #13: Learn from your mistakes.

Helping people who have a similar life story to mine has been my goal from the very beginning. As I mentioned earlier, it was not possible to raise funds for extensive charity work, but there were many other opportunities which I used. 

I have conducted workshops for thousands of students at 20 universities in Thailand. After COVID-19 restrictions started, I had to cancel workshops at 34 universities in Malaysia and Singapore, but I will come back there when things change and all borders reopen.

There is no mysterious secret of how I managed to convince to myself 54 universities, being unknown to anyone and starting a new career. The hardest part was getting to the first three. 

I work with numbers and statistics. For the first three universities to open the door for me, I sent offers to 68 universities with the attitude of making mistakes, learning from them and then send offers to remaining 104 universities, because I had 172 altogether on my list. 

It turned to be a success after sending the first series of emails and it’s only because I was not afraid to send these emails and I did not expect the results. I wanted to learn how to do it better by sending the second tranche of offers. 

Everything in life is a matter of the right attitude. If we want to have success and financial results at all costs, in many cases it paralyzes us and blocks us in our next steps. If we want to help people, learn from our mistakes and be a better person, we remove from our path the pressures of success that with time and everyday systemic work finally comes.

Fatherhood Challenges #14: It takes time, but it’s worth doing.

It took me 10 days to arrange my return and back to London. I was almost at the end of the world, in a small city in North Sumatra, and with very limited possibilities. 

Based on science and my workshops at universities and for businesses, I created an online course for people who want to learn how to use The 28-Day Running Challenge To Break Your Self-Doubts And Build Unbreakable Confidence.

Now, I’m writing a book that will reveal details of the life transformation that I have gone through over the past few years, and advice on how I coped with over 30 years of depression. 

In late summer 2021, I will start running my next ultra-endurance challenge, and I hope that my sons will join me a few times during this period to see a world and a life that they have never experience before.

Now they know that if I could do it at the age of 42, they could do it whenever they want, using the tools, courses and methods that I have built; paving the way for them to a better life.

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About Post Author

Tomasz Drybala

Tomasz Drybala is an ultra-endurance athlete and explorer, life coach, motivational speaker and ambassador. His most significant ultra-running challenges are taking five million steps in 101 days and running 7,000 miles unsupported through Asia. Tom's corporate and university coaching programmes and workshops attracted thousands of people; gaining great feedback from professors, university chancellors, students, employees and business leaders. Through his ambassadorship for the charity Wave Trust in the years 2020 to 2024, Tom collaborates with UNICEF, the World Health Organization, schools, colleges, universities and multi-country local and national governments. Bring together towns, cities and counties that are dedicated to preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences and setting up Trauma-Informed Communities. His ultra-endurance challenges and the practice of running mindfulness and active meditation are the subjects of scientific research by one of London's leading universities. Tom works with people from all walks of life to help them break the habit of self-doubt, build resilience and confidence, and create the lifestyle they want and deserve.
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