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How to Complete the Biggest Project of Your Life: An interview with Dave Cornthwaite

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Fellow Riskologists,

What does it take to make a big project happen? What do you do when you want to start something that’s going to require a lot of planning, focus, and even team building?

These are questions I ask myself all the time as I think about some of the projects I want to take on, and there are few people I know who are better at answer them than my friend, Dave Cornthwaite.

Dave is on a journey to complete 25 1,000 mile expeditions across the world. In his most recent challenge, Swim 1000, he—you guessed it—swam 1,000 miles down the Missouri River in 58 consecutive days. Quite the feat!

To do it, it took a lot of planning, a lot of courage, and a lot of support from others.

I called Dave the other day to get some insight into this question that I think Riskologists the world over confront every day:

What does it really take to succeed in the biggest project of my life?

Some questions Dave answered in our talk:

  • What risks exist in a big project like this, and how do you plan for them?
  • How do you get started with a project of this scale if you’ve never had the courage before? (Dave was a depressed graphic designer in a previous life.)
  • What do you do when your project is too big to complete alone?
  • How do you build a support team that will carry you through the tough times?
  • Do you have to know what you’re doing before you start a project like this, or can you learn along the way?
  • What does it feel like to finish something this big?
  • What’s the most important thing to do to keep yourself motivated during a big project?

And my favorite quote from Dave:

We’re the only ones who can decide on our own successes or failures. No one else can do that for us.

I hope you enjoy this talk and put Dave’s lessons to use in your own big project.

Your homework today:

In the comments below, tell us what your big project is. And share the next step you’re going to take to complete it.

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What smart people are saying about this...

  1. Wonderful stuff. I wonder what his thoughts on the Hudson swims in NYC are (water quality, etc).

    • Hmm, I don’t know what he thinks of that. I’ll ask him!

    • Anyone who swims in open water gets my vote. The Hudson certainly has more pollution than the Missouri (although in places the Big Muddy gets fairly grubby) but as long as swimmers don’t have open flesh wounds or intake any water, I now know from experience that you can spend time in poor quality water and come away unscathed. Hudson possibly a bit cold for my liking, though!

  2. Tom says:

    Just watched the video over at swim1000film.com, and found it very inspiring. I love the comment at 7:19 about how we’re here for such a short time, and why would anybody want to spend that time unhappy?

    Big congratulations on your accomplishment Dave! And, thanks Tyler for bringing this story to your site!

  3. Erin says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this inspirational nuts & bolts interview, Tyler! I have had a long-held dream of walking across the US for childhood cancer & caregiver funds, so I love these stories that keep the dream alive in my heart (if not in my physical reality. . . yet).

  4. Leah says:

    Aw, Dave Cornthwaite…one of the most upbeat, down-to-earth, honest and helpful people I’ve had the pleasure to interview for my blog since leaving my 9-5 job last August. I’ve been busy facing my fears and building up a picture of how I want my life to look over the last 9 months and I’m now on the verge of taking the next major step. From mid June I’m packing up my life in London to set off into the unknown to start creating the life and lifestyle that I now know I want. It was a quick decision and I’ve left myself with just 5 weeks to formulate a plan! I currently have no idea where I’m going, how I’m going to get there, how I’m going to support myself as I’m going. One of the big next steps will be getting rid of a lot of my ‘stuff’ – I know Dave will approve of that :-) I’m just going to have to trust that the rest will fall into place as I go…

  5. leah says:

    Indeed, much work to be done! Great interview – thanks Tyler!

  6. [...] “We’re the only ones who can decide on our own successes or failures. No one else can do that for us.” Dave Cornthwaite [...]

Founded with love by Tyler Tervooren

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