When was the lastÂ time you tookÂ a risk?
Not justÂ reaching a littleÂ further inÂ something youÂ already do, butÂ a real risk that tests the limits of your comfortÂ zone. Itâ€™s something that Nigel Marsh â€“ authorÂ of best-selling books Fat, Forty and Fired: TheÂ Year I Lost My Life and Got a Job; OverworkedÂ and Underlaid: A Seriously Funny Guide to LifeÂ and Fit, Fifty and Fired Up â€“ wants you to consider.Â â€œI believe life expands or contracts in directÂ proportion to your courage, and the magicÂ happens outside of your comfort zone,â€ heÂ says. â€œAll the good things in life happen whenÂ we take a risk. Anything that really enlivensÂ you and moves you forward involves a risk.â€Â Having co-founded Earth Hour, had multipleÂ stints as a CEO and racked up 25 years ofÂ branding and marketing experience, NigelÂ may sound like he is talking about reaching forÂ the apex of your career. Far from it. When heÂ unexpectedly lost his job at the age of 40, NigelÂ took a year-long sabbatical to take stock â€“ andÂ now heâ€™s an evangelist for work-life balance,Â or just, as he likes to call it, balance.
â€œIf you say â€˜work-life balanceâ€™ it leads youÂ into thinking itâ€™s some pathetic, superficialÂ plate-spinning exercise about leaving early soÂ you can do yoga or golf,â€ he says. â€œIf you sayÂ â€˜balanceâ€™ it makes you actually think aboutÂ constructing a life that you find meaningful.
â€˜Work-life balanceâ€™ suggests there are only twoÂ things in this world, which is bullsh*t, and thatÂ theyâ€™re in opposition, which is also bullsh*t.Â I think the right type of work is great.â€Â
His TEDxSydney talk on the topic hasÂ surpassed 3 million views.Â In the video he prowlsÂ the stage, droppingÂ truth bombs with theÂ calm demeanour ofÂ a self-assured bigwig.Â On the phone, however,Â the English expat isÂ full of beans, a totalÂ motormouth, almostÂ manic with energy.Â â€œYouâ€™ll edit out the badÂ language, wonâ€™t you?â€Â I say yes, but I meanÂ maybe.Â â€œAm I sounding like a mad nutter?â€ Only inÂ the best possible way.
The thing Nigel gets theÂ most worked up about is something called theÂ Sydney Skinny. Once a year, he and his teamÂ cordon off Cobblers Beach at Middle Head inÂ Sydney Harbour National Park and invite allÂ to come jump in for a nude ocean swim. TheÂ first Sydney Skinny took place in 2013 withÂ 700 people hitting the water.Â The 2015 event saw moreÂ than 1000 swimmers splashÂ around in their birthdayÂ suits. The next SydneyÂ Skinny is scheduled forÂ February 28, and organisersÂ are expecting up to 3000Â swimmers, with proceedsÂ from registration fees goingÂ to the McGrath FoundationÂ and the Foundation forÂ National Parks & Wildlife.
Nigel is quick to stressÂ that the Sydney Skinny isÂ not about exhibitionism â€“ instead itâ€™s a way toÂ poke at the edges of your comfort zone andÂ refresh your perspective on life.Â â€œItâ€™s not about being seen nude or seeingÂ people nude or convincing you to be nudeÂ on any other occasion in your entire life,â€Â says Nigel. â€œItâ€™s about humanity and joy andÂ acceptance and attitude. Itâ€™s about courage andÂ joyous circuit-breaking â€“ itâ€™s a brilliant laugh,Â but itâ€™s about proper stuff. Once a year itâ€™s aÂ leveller. Itâ€™s difficult to be an arsehole if youâ€™veÂ gone for a naked swim with 1500 other people.â€
Even just the way you react to the idea ofÂ the Sydney Skinny can tell you a lot aboutÂ your capacity for courage, Nigel adds. At oneÂ end of the spectrum there are the naturallyÂ adventurous folks who areÂ happy to dive straight in.Â At the other end are thoseÂ who just shut down at theÂ very thought.Â â€œYour mental reaction is anÂ indicator of your appetite forÂ risk in other areas of your life â€“Â your sex life, your financial life,Â your social life,â€ says Nigel.
“The people who go â€˜Brilliant, sign me upâ€™Â are welcome, but itâ€™s not for them. Itâ€™s for theÂ people who go, â€˜I couldnâ€™t possibly; I need threeÂ months to get in shape.â€™ Because what you do isÂ you get in the bloody water, you come out andÂ no one gives a sh*t. Itâ€™s liberating.â€
But before taking the plunge, swimmers canÂ keep their kit on right up to the waterâ€™s edge, orÂ even take it off once theyâ€™re submerged, and theÂ minute you come out youâ€™ll be handed a sarongÂ so you can cover yourself up. There are strictlyÂ no onlookers allowed and photography is tightlyÂ controlled to ensure that nobodyâ€™s privacy isÂ compromised. Water safety boats and lifesaversÂ on rescue boards patrol the area.Â â€œObviously a piano could fall on your head;Â I canâ€™t guarantee everything. But we have bentÂ over backwards to make sure it is exactly whatÂ we say it is,â€ says Nigel, adding that theyâ€™veÂ made it as easy to do as possible in flat waterÂ and some people even take flotation devices.Â â€œMy mate Max is in a wheelchair. He canâ€™tÂ walk; he canâ€™t swim. Heâ€™s lifted into the water Â by his carers and floats around with a noodle.Â Iâ€™ve taken away all the excuses, apart fromÂ â€˜I donâ€™t want to do it, I donâ€™t feel comfortableâ€™.Â I know, thatâ€™s the point!â€Â And that dip in the water can also be symbolicÂ of a bigger life shift. At previous swims, twoÂ women who had mastectomies, said it was theÂ first time theyâ€™d feltÂ comfortable withÂ themselves. AnotherÂ woman flew fromÂ Seattle to use the eventÂ to mark a new chapterÂ of her life after theÂ death of her husband.
â€œThereâ€™s a wonderfulÂ baptismal vibe to itÂ where you can projectÂ onto it any meaningÂ that you want,â€ saysÂ Nigel. â€œItâ€™s somethingÂ you might do every year, just to keep yourselfÂ honest. When Iâ€™m at the beach and Iâ€™m droppingÂ my kit and jumping in, I havenâ€™t got all thatÂ armour; Iâ€™m not a CEO, Iâ€™m just a human being.Â â€œItâ€™s just a loving, joyous, totally non-cynicalÂ event that makes the world slightly nicer, oneÂ swimmer at a time. Thereâ€™s no downside. TheÂ worst that can happen is that you have a brilliantÂ day and feel better about yourself. Oh my god,Â are you going to do it?â€ He was asking me.
Now Iâ€™m asking you. Whatâ€™s your answer?
If it’s a ‘Yes!’, the next Sydney Skinny is on Sunday 28th February and you can enter hereÂ : )
Read the original story in Issue 30 of Collective Hub, on stands now