Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Joe O'Blenis - breaking through the "envelope" with one heck of a great attitude!

It is our attitude
at the beginning of a difficult task
which, more than anything else,
will affect its successful outcome.
- William James

In the early morning hours of August 19th, Joe O'Blenis launched his sea kayak in the waters off Nanaimo. Then he started to paddle.

16 days, 12 hours, 14 minutes, and 1150 kilometres later, Joe returned to his launch spot...having paddled completely around Vancouver Island - and in the fastest time ever!

Those of us who live here know that Vancouver Island is big, it's rugged, and much of its coast is incredibly isolated and exposed. The sea, as anywhere, is unforgiving.  I haven't had the pleasure of meeting Joe in person, but I have a sense that he must have an amazing attitude towards life and about what we can do when we are willing to "push the envelope" with a deep and abiding positive and adventuresome spirit.

As the quote from William James would suggest, our attitudes play a significant role in what we are able to accomplish in life. And so often, it is our attitudes that define who we are and how we are perceived by others. A negative attitude can limit our living and deeply affect our relationships. It can "shrink wrap" us, close us off to life's opportunities, and stifle our imaginations and our dreams 

A positive attitude, on the other hand, embraces life, even the difficult times, and refuses to ever give up on anything that's important. It connects us to others for there is something irresistibly attractive about people who are positive and thankful in their outlook. Such an attitude seeks to offer forgiveness and is open to reconciliation. A positive attitude enables us to keep on breaking through the "envelopes" as we grow and experience and discover. Each time that happens, a little "light" breaks through. And it's light that warms and nurtures our spirits. It's also light that can offer a healing touch to life's hurts and disappointments.

This morning, as the sun began to rise in the sky over Gabriola Island and above a thick overcast, it found a window in the clouds and illuminated the sea before us with a magnificent display of light. Positive attitudes create and find such "windows" for light. Everything becomes so much more possible. The good news is that the attitude we take towards life is something that we can choose. Having said that, admittedly, it's not always easy.

Few knew better than Joe O'Blenis, pictured above, how incredibly challenging - to body, mind, and spirit - such an epic paddle would be. He had already set a previous record for this circumnavigation in 2007. It surely took immense courage, athleticism, stamina, confidence, and endurance. I'm thinking, however, that it all began with one heck of a great attitude!

Thanks for the inspiration, Joe - a lot of us are in awe. And, oh yes, congratulations!

Top image: The sun breaks through this morning.
Bottom image: Joe O'Blenis, somewhere, along the way. (image taken from the internet)

PS Running friends - with regards to this epic paddle, think Leadville 100, Badwater ultras etc...yup, it had to be that tough, and a whole lot longer!


  1. Can you begin to imagine how many "zillion" paddle strokes? And the sense of aloneness out there...? Can't wait to hear Joe's story.

  2. Understood, Gen, it's a pretty impressive feat. It will be a good story to hear told, whether you're a paddler or not - the stuff of true adventure! Duncan.