22 October 2017

mount toubkal morocco goal setting journey lawrence jones mbe

Reaching the summit – an extraordinary achievement and a moment to take in the journey to get there.

I remember Tony Robbins telling me it’s not the destination that counts but what it makes of you on the journey there that matters.

I experienced this in person last week. My wife Gail and I hit the most rewarding goal – we completed the 2017 STRIVE challenge, cycling the rough desert terrain across Morocco and then climbing to the top of the tallest mountain in North Africa – Mount Toubkal. It was all in aid of education, raising money for Sam and Holly Branson’s Big Change charity. Together the team of only 25 donated around £700,000.

Whilst hitting that goal is an absolutely extraordinary feeling, more important are the lessons that we learned along the way.

It’s hard to think of much other than putting one foot in front of the other when you are cycling or trekking through extreme conditions in extreme heat with sand and dust blowing in your face. But, in the moments when you pause for a break and have time to catch your breath, the lessons creep in.

cycling through the desert - strive morocco 2017 richard branson lawrence jones big change ukfast

Cycling through some of the toughest terrain imaginable but the human spirit prevailed.

The human spirit

My biggest discovery on the STRIVE journey was undoubtedly the enormous strength of the human spirit. The youngest of the team of 25 challengers was an 18-year-old called Jeremiah. This extraordinary young adult saw his friend stabbed and killed in London when he was just 13 years old. He stood in front of some of the world’s biggest motivators – including Simon Sinek and Sir Richard Branson – speaking to us all from the heart. He said something that really resonated with me. “You all think you’ve done a lot with your lives but, believe me, you can do more.”

Around 3200 metres up a mountain, away from fancy offices and the protection of our teams and polished brands, this comment hit home. It knocked me for six.

I am a great believer in reflection and every year I wonder and ask myself the question: “Can I ever be more motivated than I am at this point now?”

Thinking it’s impossible to find another gear is easy. It’s not complacency; it’s realism, which is just as deadly.

A second wind

strive 2017 big change lawrence jones mbe mountain bikes

The row of bikes that would take us to the foothills of North America’s tallest mountain.

Receiving my MBE from Her Majesty the Queen was one such moment when I’d thought previously I couldn’t work harder or smarter but when that happened, I was rejuvenated and found a significant extra wind. The year later, just when I least expected another inspirational moment, Manchester Metropolitan University kindly awarded me with a Doctorate in Business Administration. This again fuelled another spurt and an extraordinary year, to the point where I find myself now.

And, if I thought there was nowhere else to go or anywhere else to dig deeper, I have a lot to thank this young man Jeremiah for his honesty and simple awakening.

“You all think you’ve done a lot with your lives but, believe me, you can do more.” Priceless.

On the journey

Jeremiah had struggled himself on this journey up the mountain and made a joke that the only time he had been on a mountain bike was on the flat roads of London and that he had wanted to give up after just 500 yards!

lawrence and gail jones ukfast strive morocco journey for big change charity

Gail and I on the way up Mount Toubkal – exhausted but totally exhilarated.

But no one on that team was going to let anyone give up. Across the day we all took turns spending a few minutes with anyone who was struggling and when it was my turn, there was someone there for me too.

This is just one example of the strength of human spirit. At times when you think you have nothing more to give, there is always more and the only person who can break you, is yourself. This is where the power and strength of teamwork kicks in. Just hearing encouragement is all that is needed to soldier on.

Gail is a great example of just how attitude and determination gets you through no matter how tough the circumstance. She fell off her bike more than eight times on the trip, easily done considering the unpredictable terrain. Yet her smile never faltered. A number of us came off more than once, it was unavoidable.

I also learned a lot about myself along the way. Gail and I both keep ourselves fit and healthy, we exercise every day. Despite that, by the end of the first day, my legs were exhausted! Add to that the pain of falling off the bike onto solid rock three times along the way!

However tough the challenge, it was just a few days of discomfort. Knowing that together we are making a difference to other people’s lives who haven’t had the start or opportunities we have had when it comes to eduction is fuel enough.

Changing education

Can I do more? Jeremiah is right. So how and what do I have to do? That’s the real question.


strive morocco journey group photo lawrence jones mbe sir richard branson simon sinek strive morocco in the desert fro big change

Taking some time to reflect on the journey so far. Each of us learned so much along the way. A life-changing experience.

Without doubt, I have reached a point in my life where no matter how much harder I work, I can’t really improve the quality of my family’s life. I can, however, make a difference to others.

I love my responsibility in the business community; helping to inspire other business folk like me, wanting to make a difference. I’m realising though, that somehow I am growing closer to education. And that if we are to fix any of the problems within the UK and the world we live in, it can only be done by ensuring each future generation is educated and prepared for the complexities of the world ahead.

Time for change

I hear myself often saying the line: “Kids don’t stay kids for very long.”. It’s these kids who are very soon building hospitals or roads. They’re designing planes, creating life-changing medicines, becoming teachers or nurses.

Do we want a world with high-quality people looking after us older folk? Or do we live for the now and tackle the problem later?

It is without doubt time for BIG CHANGE.

Reaching the summit of Mount Toubkal with such amazing like-minded people was a once-in-a-lifetime moment. One that I will treasure for ever. Not for the achievement of reaching the summit, although that was amazing; instead for the awakening of something deep inside me that cares more than I ever realised.

And, thanks to Jeremiah, I now have an extra friend and a business conscience that is always here to remind me, I can always do more!


Find out more about my STRIVE journey in this week’s FollowLJ. Watch below…

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