Apparently crossing the English Channel in a dragon boat in 2007 and smashing the previous Guinness World Record is not as important as Charlie Sheen gaining the most Twitter followers in the least amount of time.
I was stunned to read this article on Mashable today – so stunned I had to write this post. What the heck has happened to what we place importance on in this world? What do achievements we value as far as world record breaking levels are concerned?
I used to think the Guinness World Records awarded people who had achieved monumental feats of greatness, ingenuity, craziness or people who were just incredibly tall or freaks of nature.
But gaining a whole lot of Twitter followers in record time, just because you’re a talented actor with a major drug addiction who’s gone off the rails, isn’t exactly what I’d call world record worthy.
It screams of popular celebrity trash and self serving media attention that’s not related to anything worth celebrating in my mind, and it’s not exactly setting a great example for the young ones in this world is it?
“I know young Jonny, when you grow up don’t bother being a firefighter, a politician, a human rights activist or a health professional, become a celebrity and do really stupid stuff, get in the media for all the wrong reasons and become hugely popular and rich.”
“Alright mum, sounds like a great plan”.
When I joined a bunch of amazing women as part of the Sisterhood in 2007, we were on a mission to break the Guinness World Record for crossing the English Channel in none other than a dragon boat.
If you’re not familiar with the sport of Dragon Boating that originated in China over 2,000 years ago, then picture a human powered boat, traditionally made of teak wood that you’d typically find in Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands, made for sprint races of 500m or less over smooth waters.
Instead we trained for hours, several times a week, over many months so that we could cover a distance of just over 19 miles and we did it in 3 hours and 42 mins – a whole 4 hours less than the previous record holders!
Even though we smashed the record I was devastated when, as the liaison between Guinness World Records and the Sisterhood , I was told we were not granted the record because our boat did not have the standard head, tail and drummer that were required to classify it as a dragon boat.
Could you imagine paddling across one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, where ships speed along and could easily smash our boat to smithereens in an instant, and having a fancy dragon head and tail while some small person sat at the front beating a drum?
Insanity. Regardless of that `minor’ detail we still feel victorious, as do the Brotherhood, a group of equally great guys who completed the challenge with us (and just a little ahead) setting off from Shakespeare’s Beach, Dover to Wissant Bay, France.
Not only was it a grueling and epic journey, it was an adventure in pushing the limits of your mind and body and ensuring life long bonds of friendship with those who you had trained with all that time.
I’m still immensely proud of our efforts to this day. It seems the media though, are more interested in another angle of our journey. In case you’re not an avid fan of the English Royal Family, then you may like to know that Prince William is finally getting married to Kate Middleton.
It just so happens that Kate, through some connections with fellow sisters in our boat, came and joined us for a few training sessions with us as a potential new Sisterhood member. In reality it was a clever PR stunt for both her image in the media and for our visibility.
I can still vividly remember the press frenzy that ensued as Kate stood at the helm of the boat on our early morning practices looking lovely and poised, while we sweated it out in no makeup and grimaces on our face, powering the boat along the river Thames.
The amount of press Kate and the Sisterhood got in that short period was unbelievable to me. Suddenly we were front page of this and that major newspaper along with many shocking articles that dug up as much dirt as possible about the Sisterhood crew and Kate’s involvement.
The English press are brutal and only interested in celebrity hype and political chaos.
I recall getting on the London Tube one morning and seeing myself on the front page of the Metro, the daily newspaper read by millions of commuters, in a photo snapped by the paparazzi of one of our training sessions.
I wasn’t sure whether to shout out in excitement and announce to everyone in my carriage that I was in fact that person on the front page being partially blocked by an inset of Kate’s face or not!
This press attention did help us immensely in raising more money, over 100,000 pounds in fact, for the two charities we were supporting, and we got sponsorship from HELLO! and a spread in their famous magazine.
Now with the impending wedding of Kate and Wills the media are in yet another frenzy. Turns out they’re even featuring a remake of our Channel crossing in a film.
Thanks to my rather obvious online profile, and some charitable body painting shots on the BBC website that I’ve never been able to shake off the Google rankings, it seems I’m a prime target for being contacted by by several international TV stations asking to interview me about my `friendship’ with Kate.
I even had the major network ITV, who will be putting out a program to be seen my millions, approach me this week. I’m not sure whether it’s a blessing or a major missed PR opportunity to be based in Buenos Aires right now as it seems that’s just a little too far for them to fly out for an interview with me. One in which I would tell them I spoke to Kate just a handful of times and no, I don’t know William at all…..
I’m sure this is not the first time, nor will it be the last, when celebrity status overshadows the efforts of mere mortals to achieve remarkable things.
The solution? Keep on being remarkable and making a difference, for your legacy will live on well beyond the life of a tweet or yesterday’s front page news.
Oh and congratulations Kate and Will. I am actually truly happy for you and am awaiting my invitation in the mail.