Incase you have been hiding under a rock, one of our fantastic Partners, Shirley Thompson is setting sail on yet another amazing feat, sailing 3000km across the Atlantic ocean...solo!

We caught up Shirley who shared with us some of her best advice on not accepting the obstacles in your life and who inspires her.

SmartPA: Hi Shirley! Did you have a mentor growing up?

Shirley Thompson: Not a mentor, but I believe that my determined maternal Scottish grandmother inspired me hugely. She was fearless, determined and much more forward thinking than her generation allowed. At the age of 18 (so around 1912) she crossed the Atlantic in a ship to join her “suitor” and marry him, (he had left the Hebrides a year earlier and sent her a letter inviting her to join him) and live in USA and create a life there for a few years. She was always studying something, learning some new skill, travelling alone (she was widowed in her fifties) inspiring. Right up until she died at 96, she would go to extra-curricular classes at the local university, and had the most incredible tenacity and zest for life.

SmartPA: Who else in your life inspires you?

ST: A Canadian Adventurer/ Motivational Speaker called Ray Zahab. Ray overcame addiction and turned his excesses into a  positive, he has completed some of the most gruelling expeditions on the planet, he runs a tremendous educational foundation, impossible2possible and he is the epitome of how someone can turn their life around with focus. I feel proud to call him a friend.

SmartPA: What advice would you give to your younger self?

ST: Three things:

  1. Seize every opportunity- sometimes the most unlikely things can lead you to incredible life adventures or self-discovery.
  2. Know that every cloud DOES have a silver lining- when you are at your lowest ebb , positive things pop up and turn things around, so always be positive, always think positive thoughts and always find the positive in people and experiences.
  3. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t. I think intuition is much more powerful that we realise and so often my sixth sense has been right and retrospectively I wish I had trusted it.

SmartPA: Do you set yourself personal goals?

ST: Not knowingly, though I did always make myself a promise to do something mind-blowingly awesome for my 60th. I think I have found the perfect birthday present!

SmartPA: What appeals to you about endurance challenges, like your solo row across the Atlantic?

ST: I love having the opportunity to compete against me, to test my capacity to achieve things that I thought were beyond me.  I adore being at one with nature and this latest challenge, the Atlantic Row gives me the opportunity to be alone in the vastness of the ocean, combining testing my mental and physical strength with the mind-blowing beauty of the ocean.

SmartPA:  When you are in the toughest stages of your challenges, what inspires you in those moments?

ST: I focuses on bitesize parts of my challenges. So if I am running and feeling tired, I focus on one step at a time. If I am rowing, then it’s one stroke at a time. I refuse to get overwhelmed by the enormity of what I am doing. I never think of the end goal, just the next few minutes or hours.

SmartPA: How are you feeling about going into the next attempt?

ST: I am excited and focused. I made a poor choice with the company that worked on my boat so now have a reputable, trustworthy competent boat builder, and this time my boat will be seaworthy! I am working hard to accumulate funds to pay for the repairs and soon hope to be back on the water training for my autumn departure.

SmartPA: What would you say to someone who is looking to do the same?

ST: Go for it! Reach for your dreams. We only get one life, so make every day count.

Doing any sort of challenge (it doesn’t need to be an Atlantic Row!) will give you an extra zest for life, make you feel empowered and a better person. There are no negatives. So, sign up for that 5k, or cycle ride, or whatever appeals. But switch off your smartphone and your computer, give yourself that work life balance.

Finally, don’t accept your own obstacles. This is YOUR life. Live it!

SmartPA: How can you take so much time from work?

ST: I am self-employed and last year I added a Smart PA franchise to my business.

They have several business models, including one where I can insource my clients back  to head office, so this means I don’t need to worry about clients (nor losing an income stream) while I am away. It’s a win-win!!

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