Andrei Rosu And The Power Of An AHA! Moment

“An Antonov-74 jet will fly you to an international North Pole Camp called Barneo situated between 89N and 90N, drifting in the high Arctic Ocean. The Antonov will return to collect you approximately 36 – 48 hours later. Soon after landing you will be taken by helicopter to 90N, where the North Pole Marathon takes place.” said the briefing.

Once he got there, Andrei recalls: “I wasn’t sure whether I should start or not. The winds were devastating. The temperature was -20 Celsius, with a real feel of about -30. But when the start gun was shot, I moved forward without hesitation. We took 11 laps around the 4km circuit marked with flags on the ice. Most of the time, those orange flags were all I could see around me. In some places the ice was thinner and I could hear it crack under my feet. In other places some of the contestants were going knee-deep into the snow. And sometimes the wind was so strong in our faces, that every step seemed like when you have to push a car”. 7 hours, 53 minutes and 58 seconds later, Andrei finished the race and with it, the first step of what later became a Guinness Book of World Records achievement: “7 Marathons and 7 Ultra Marathons on 7 Continents, within 582 days.”

“I didn’t do it for the Guinness Book. There are people there who ate 800 peppers, or who stood on just one foot for days, so if you want to get in with something, you can. All I wanted was to make a change in my life – to start to organize my time better, to give up TV and to run. To be a better model for my kids and to be a better person. I didn’t think I’d have a story to tell.”

So how did it all start? Andrei is a successful corporate employee from Romania. He also used to live the unsurprising corporate life: very busy throughout the day, missing meals or killing them with fast food, falling asleep in front of the TV or just browsing channels. More than once he felt he needed to change this lifestyle. Once was when his boy sat next to him on the sofa and was just zapping through channels. Several other times were when he needed to buy ever larger clothes, having put on 10 kg in just a few years.

One day he attended the TMI Time Manager workshop. It was the third time his colleagues from HR had scheduled him to attend it. Twice, he was of course too busy with work to come to the seminar. Once in the classroom, he knew that if he did not apply right away what he had learned, he would never apply it. So he called his wife and said “I’ll be late tonight. I’m not seeing anyone, don’t worry, but I just need to get some things done”.

At 3 a.m. he was still in the office. Very tired, but happy: no icons on his computer desktop, clear desk, all documents filed nicely, grouped by well-chosen categories. His inbox was empty, with some e-mails moved to dedicated folders, while others converted into tasks and placed in his calendar. “I can’t describe the freedom I felt”, says Andrei.

He then took the change to other areas of his life, setting some rules and respecting them ever since: wake-up earlier and get something valuable done right away – reading, preparing an important report, jogging; no phones or e-mails before 10 a.m.; checking e-mails only 2-3 times a day; putting down on to-do lists everything you want to get done; cleaning the desk, the inbox and the computer desktop at the end of the day, to have a welcoming environment when you return. And many others.

“The first step is the hardest. There are plenty of excuses lying around, waiting for you to pick them up and hide behind them. The first weeks are hard. It’s important to remember why you’re doing these things. You can’t just jog because some other people do it. You need to have your own goals.”

His first running experience was a Half Marathon. After that, a friend he met there sent him, as a joke, the link to the North Pole Marathon. His sense of humor is healthy, but the North Pole Marathon struck a sensitive chord. It felt like the ultimate adventure. He remembered the Jules Verne books from his childhood and he also remembered he had always dreamt of travelling to the North Pole. The thought didn’t leave him so he decided he’d go for it and started to train properly.

“The greatest challenge was to manage my time. I knew I did not want to change one addiction – work – for another – jogging – and still be away from my family. So I chose to train in the morning, setting my alarm clock for 5 a.m. I knew that if I could do this for a week, I could do it for as long as it takes.”

Since then, Andrei has run Marathons, Ultra Marathons, Iron Man events, the Double Iron Florida (7.6 km swimming, 360km biking and 84.4 km running – in 35 hours), the Mexico Triple Ultra Triathlon (just add bigger numbers here, dear reader. It all sounds out of this world by now, doesn’t it?) and, of course, the Virginia Quintuple Ultra (19km swimming, 900km biking and a mere 210 km running). Family is great, a second child arrived in 2011. Job is fine. Andrei runs a blog at andreirosu.org, that has attracted almost 1 million visitors since 2010.

He estimates he has run over 15,000 km so far and he plans to run more. All after the North Pole experience, that proved him he can do great things. And this after the Half Marathon. And that after the energy he felt by putting things in order, pushed by an Aha! moment in a TMI workshop.

Now, do we as TMI claim we had a 1% contribution to his successes? We could. But we don’t. We believe his achievements are 100% his own. We just did our job, which is not just to deliver some content over to participants, but to inspire everyone to make the best out of their days, to bring out the best in themselves and in others.

Should all of us run marathons now? Probably not. But we all have our own fields where great achievements await, if we just make a few confident steps and stay away from all the naysayers and all the obstacles – most of them in ourselves.

As TMI, we’ll continue to inspire people and organizations, looking forward to hearing great new stories – from Andrei, from you, from others, from ourselves.

Excerpt from Shift- Powerful Stories of Organizational Transformation

Article written by Octavian Pantis