Self-described as a ‘blind optimist’, Nahla cycled 3000 miles across America, despite not having owned a bike in twenty years and walked 500 miles the length of England, relying only on the kindness of strangers. In 2020, she made a world record by travelling 5007 miles on an ElliptiGO bike, through every UK city, in the middle of a pandemic. At the same time she was creating the biggest Strava art in England that spelled out the word, ‘KINDNESS’. Nahla’s unique selling point is that she completes these challenges, asking for people to pledge an act of kindness for a stranger, rather than sponsoring money to a charity. Founder of the Sunshine People and a Culture of Kindness, Nahla has built up a strong following, inspiring others to use kindness to effect change, worldwide. Her profound experience of kindness during a period of deep grief led her to build her resolve to ensure others, at both a corporate and social level would benefit from kindness too. She has learned how to face fear and difficulties positively, by changing her mindset and encourages everyone to work on their self-belief by telling themselves, ‘I am enough’. Her new book, The Accidental Adventurer launched on November 1st 2021.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 00:14
Hello, and welcome back to HeadRightOut, the podcast that is here to encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and do things that scare you on a regular basis.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 00:26
My name is Zoe Langley-Wathen. I’m a writer, speaker, midlife adventure seeker – ooh, that rhymes. I’m a teacher, an artist, long-distance walker, plus a daughter, a mother and a wife. There are so many things that we all know we are, and there’s so many more things that we could be. I wonder how many things you’ve wanted to do, but have never quite managed to get your head round doing them. Because they all feel a bit daunting or a bit big. Perhaps you think a bit TOO big for you? But believe me… they’re not.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 01:08
Today, I have an amazing woman that’s come to chat to us. Obviously, this is all about inspiring you to head out of your comfort zone, do something that scares you, and I think that this person is the most ideal person this week to talk to us. Nahla Summers is just an incredible woman that I’ve been following for years now and we actually had the pleasure of meeting up about eighteen months ago, and we had a great conversation. She is going to talk to us about her adventures that she’s been on and what she does.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 01:45
Nahla Summers 01:50
Well what an introduction and oh, I hope I meet the criteria of that. But thank you so much. That’s ever so kind of you.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 01:59
I am just delighted that you agreed to come on the pod. So I’m going to read a bio for you Nahla. This is something that I think just encapsulates who you are, what you do in a nutshell, and then we’ll kind of dig down into that a little bit more and just tease out some of the things that we both think are going to be of particular interest to our listeners.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 02:19
Nahla Summers is a cultural change consultant, award winner, author, public speaker, podcaster and the driving force behind a culture of kindness and ’44 Rays of Sunshine’; it won the most inspirational book in 2017. Her story and how she overcame adversity has been inspiring businesses and people around the world. Nahla is the founder of Sunshine People, the social movement that inspired her to carry out yearly adventures to highlight the power that kindness has to transform societies. She was awarded a Point of Light Award from the Prime Minister for transforming the concept of sponsorship. Nahla cycled 3000 miles across America having not owned a bike in 20 years, she walked 500 miles from South to North England, relying only on the kindness of strangers. And in 2020, she made a world record by going 5007 miles on an ElliptiGO bike through every city in the UK, in the middle of a pandemic whilst also producing the biggest Strava art in England by writing kindness across it. Nahla’s unique selling point is that she completes these challenges and asks people to show their support by doing an act of kindness for a stranger, rather than sponsoring money to a charity.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 03:36
As the founder of the CIC, Sunshine People, every year, she takes on a new challenge, and every year, she discovers something new about the power that kindness has on people. As an author of several books, including an award winning book in 2017, Nahla is an inspiring and established speaker. Among the many messages that she delivers, she shares how we can change the chatter in our minds to allow us to achieve anything we dream of how resilience is built, and when the world gives us lemons, how we can in fact, make lemonade. How the actions of one can change the world and therefore what we each do, really does matter. Nahla gives every leader, and every person that listens to her, the knowledge that they too can do anything they wish to. If SHE can, they most definitely can.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 04:29
Wow, that to me Nahla is what HeadRightOut is all about. It’s all about resilience. It’s all about facing those fears and saying but if they can do it, so can I. So, where did this start? Are you happy to share some of your background to tell us how Sunshine People and how this facing fears and resilience building started, and the Culture of Kindness. You know, that’s Sunshine People.
Nahla Summers 04:57
Yeah, it was really around understanding, and this is not meant to sound depressing in any way, but it was really understanding my own mortality and the death of my partner who I was living with at the time. When he died very suddenly of a heart attack, while he was on a charity cycle ride, he wasn’t much of a cyclist, and he hadn’t done loads of training, but he had gone out, on this work thing. He didn’t know if he’d finish it, but he was going to go out and have a go. You know, I was dropping him off for a cycle ride and two hours later, he was calling me, telling me he thought he was having a heart attack. I think there’ll be listeners here that fully understand that that grief, whether it’s a parent or best friend, or somebody, you know, impacts you all very differently. But for me, it impacted me in this understanding that life can change in a moment. And while we think that we are living our lives, to all the things that we want to do, you know, I would say, Oh, I’m going to do this, at some point, you know, I wanted to foster children. And I would say, I’m going to do that at some point, and I’m going to quit this corporate job that I’m completely tied into, that I’ve been doing for 15 years, I could do it standing on my head. I don’t really get that much enjoyment, and I don’t feel it, it’s my purpose in life, but I’m kind of doing it now, and I’m just gonna keep on doing it. After Paul died, that changed significantly. I’m not advocating wait until somebody dies, I’m definitely advocating taking a look at ‘am I living the life that I really want to live?’ There is this old, saying, if you only had one day to live…? Well, if I only had one day to live, I go to the pub with all my mates, you know, that’s what I would do.
Nahla Summers 07:00
But if somebody said you have a year to live, would you be happy in the life that you were in right now? It’s asking yourself the question, if you had a year to live that if you were in your current place, would you stay doing that work? Would you stay in the environment and the place that you are? Or would you make a change, and if you would make a change, then you need to make that change right now. Because we just don’t know what is around the corner.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 07:31
That’s a powerful message straight out there isn’t it? I think there’s a lot of people that DO get that – there’s a lot of people that have experienced that moment of questioning their own mortality, because of the loss of a loved one. And I’m so sorry that you went through that with your partner.
Nahla Summers 07:47
But you know,this is the life that I’m in now, and I wouldn’t have raised 250,000 acts of kindness, I wouldn’t have met these incredible people, I wouldn’t have travelled as much as I had. I would have done some travelling, but I mean, I’ve travelled the world three times over, researching about kindness. So while there are so many times that I think I’d just love to have him back, because it was just easy. It was easy to be loved unconditionally by him at the same time to do that means that you take away the last ten years, and the purpose that I now have from that side of things. So yeah, it’s a hard one.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 08:34
You can see the joy and the benefit that you have from both sides of the story. So you know, having Paul and having the life you have now and to actually say, well, sorry, you can have one or the other, to say you can only have one or the other is so hard. But to know that a huge benefit has come from that loss, actually must be very reassuring.
Nahla Summers 08:59
Yeah, because it’s bigger than me. See, when me and Paul were together, we lived in a little bubble. That was just me and him. There was this unconditional love between us. We didn’t do a whole load of things, we just didn’t. We just enjoyed each other’s company, and it was very easy. And life is not easy now, but now I have a much bigger purpose that’s really nothing to do with me. There’s a key to happiness from that. When we make our lives about other people. There’s a purpose that drives us forward as we talk about mental health challenges and all the challenges that go on for human development. When we actually realise that our lives are really meant to support each other. And whether that’s going out to the community and doing things whether that’s helping somebody across the road, somebody with their shopping, you know, just being part of the community around you. That’s the purpose and really, that drove me down that road after Paul’s death. I understand that it’s not really about me and all the stuff that I do isn’t really about me at all. It’s about the rest of the world, and it gives us great purpose.
Nahla Summers 10:10
I think so. Yeah.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 10:11
Thank you for sharing that. Yeah. So the acts of kindness, then. The sponsorship of kindness. Why did you choose that over sponsorship of financial gain, to help a charity? What was your driving force behind that?
Nahla Summers 10:28
You know, when Paul first died, I was in a terrible place. I was obviously crying all the time. I wasn’t able to deal with it. I was talking in riddles. I was in a deep state of shock, and it got worse. After the funeral, I stopped wanting people to come into the house, and I stopped wanting to leave the house, and then it was just spiralling, really. I would call my mum, and she would always be on the end of the phone, but it was like, she never went out. I would just cry down the phone, and she would just listen, and she would just be present and say, “oh darling. I know”. Because there wasn’t anything that you could fix. There was nothing else to do other than listen or say all those very unhelpful things like ‘oh, well, time’s a great healer’ and all that. Very unhelpful. If ever, you haven’t gone through grief, and you’re trying to help a grieving friend, don’t say that. I wasn’t eating or sleeping. It was just spiralling out of control, really.
Nahla Summers 10:45
So we lived out in the beach in Weston-Super-Mare, in Kewstoke. We had the most beautiful sunsets, like just stunning. Me andPaul was used to going out on an evening after work. On this one particular day, I decided to go out to the beach, and there was a man on a horse doing a figure of eight backwards, you know, it was quite something and he was training the horse, along this very quiet beach – and the water goes right out at Weston-Super-Mare.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 12:08
I know it well.
Nahla Summers 12:09
Yeah. I mean, it’s just stunning. I love it there, and then a man came up with his dog and asked me about if the horse was mine, and in those moments, you know of talking to me, I felt this lightness. Where everything in my peripheral vision had been dark, I felt that there was some kind of light at the end of the tunnel. The man went off, his phone rang, he had to go and he just chit-chatted to me about nothing in particular, gave me stories of positivity. I wasn’t suddenly healed from my grief, but it did become the catalyst for me starting to change my life.
Nahla Summers 12:49
My mom would say I ‘grieved well’, and what she meant by that was, I talked a lot, you know, if I was to say to anybody, and I wrote everything down. So I wrote to Paul every day, because I had all these things to tell him. And they weren’t really very big things. They were like the boiler’s broken; your car got broken into, because we left a sat nav in it; I’m not sure what to do about something. And so I started to write to him, and it became a therapy and I talked a lot. Yeah, huge tip, very easy. Let’s not overcomplicate the solutions to the world, and life and all the challenges that we have talking is just a huge thing. Even if you tell the same story to ten different friends go and do it, because you’ll feel a lot better at the end of it. So I went through the grieving process, and after I met that stranger on the beach, it started to become a catalyst. And I started to look at people and started to think. When I went out to the shops and you know, the kindness of somebody helping me to get something from the top shelf and kindness did become very prevalent in those first months. And it got suggested that I climb Kilimanjaro, quite early on. And I thought, well, why not? I’ll just do that. I have blind optimism, and only discovered the term ‘blind optimism’, while I was writing my latest book. I have it in spades. This kind of, ‘yeah, let’s do it. Let’s figure it out later on’. Because otherwise, if you know too much, and you think about it too much, you won’t do anything at all. You’ll just be paralysed. I have blind optimism and I don’t want to fight it. I’m quite happy with it. And so I did the same with Kilimanjaro. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I raised £14,000 with the help of the company that Paul worked for, and of course, he only died at forty-four and when something like that happens, people donate, don’t they? So I raised £14,000 and when I called the charity on returning from Kilimanjar and said, “what can we do with this money?” They said, “oh, no, it’s just gone into the big pot.” I really wanted to do something very specific for him, and so I decided that this was not our life. This was not who we were, and decided that they would start collecting acts of kindness instead.
Nahla Summers 15:18
It started off with just friends and family and a hobby became a life really. I can remember, the first year I did it, people went, “Oh, can’t I just give you £10? It would be so much easier than than having to go out and do an act of kindness?” I’d say, “no, you got to do an act of kindness!” You know, I got a few that first year and it just rolled on. It was really why ‘acts of kindness’ and so that’s where it started. Yeah, and of course, with acts of kindness, it’s a bit like when you’re collecting, if you’ve got an interest in penguins, for example, and everybody buys you penguins related stuff every Christmas and birthday. Well this is what happened with me with kindness. But it was just all year round. So every meme, you get tagged in everything, people gift you books, and you know, ‘oh you’ve got to meet this person who is the kindest person, they want to tell you stories’. And so it goes on. I became fascinated by this idea of kindness and how much we were missing it, and so it went on really.
Nahla Summers 16:28
Zoe Langley-Wathen 16:29
It’s like it snowballed.
Nahla Summers 16:30
Zoe Langley-Wathen 16:32
Which is what you need, isn’t it? That’s what you need to actually get this whole thing off the ground and going, so how many acts of kindness have been donated, now? I guess that’s the right term.
Nahla Summers 16:42
That’s right. We’re at about a quarter of a million now. So the aim is to get a million with just connecting with an organisation called Hexitime actually, and they add up volunteer hours and it’s a really clever idea. I strongly advise that just out of nosiness go and have a look at them. They’re very much in the social and care world, and it’s some doctors that founded it. So for every volunteer hour that they do, we’ll be putting that into the 1 million, which is really exciting as well. I’m hopeful that certainly within the next twelve months that we get to… or fourteen months, maybe I have blind optimism again, probably two years, I would imagine!
Zoe Langley-Wathen 17:25
That is so exciting, and we can put a link to Hexitime in the in the show notes. Yeah, no problem. And I think actually, the whole thing about acts of kindness, you’ve got something that is so tangible, whereas you didn’t have that with the donating money to the charity, you didn’t have something did you, that you could say this is what we have done in memory of Paul, and this is helping his name live on. There wasn’t anything there, but now these acts of kindness are so tangible. Not only are they helping other people, I’m a huge believer in that they help US as well. So the people that are donating the acts of kindness, you can’t fail to feel good, you feel absolutely wonderful. Every time you do something for somebody else. I always encourage people to go and volunteer, particularly in schools, they always ask me, you know, how can I go and earn money? How can I go and get a job. So don’t focus on getting a job. Now go and volunteer first, get some experience, you’ll feel really good. But actually, it will help other people and it’ll help your CV and your experience to get your job as well. But yeah, if it fills you up, and it makes you feel wonderful.
Nahla Summers 18:30
It should be prescribed by doctors, in terms of getting involved in community joining a social group. You know, all of that. People also misunderstand me when I talk about kindness, because kindness isn’t just about the ‘act of kindness’, because people think, Oh, I have to buy someone a cup of coffee, take some doughnuts into work. But that isn’t kindness, truly. You know, I might be doing something nice. But kindness is about standing in the shoes of somebody else, and really being present with them. Kindness is, not putting your own beliefs and thoughts onto somebody, but listening to theirs and going, ‘yeah, I see that. I see where you are coming from.’ It’s about the gratitude to somebody – but true gratitude – not just a blind, thank you, but really being grateful for the people around you, which of course has its own impacts on you. Connection, courage, time, integrity, all of these things are built under the umbrella of kindness. I think when we focus on that, as a society, we will change all of the issues that we currently have. It sounds very bold to say that but if you look at any issue that we have: mental health challenges, environmental challenges within the world, political challenges, workplace challenges, any thing to do with something as simple as bullying. You look at the way that our politicians have a lack of empathy and understanding for the variety of people within society, a lack of kindness is at the heart of all of our problems. So kindness doesn’t even just come down to those, you know, 250,000 acts. People say to me, oh, what can I do, I said, you can just be present for somebody, when they really need you, you can just be on the end of the phone, when somebody is having a bad time. And that’s kindness to just be present. It’s really not difficult. Educate yourself on a bigger society, educate yourself on not just the society that you live, but all of society and the challenge that, that people have, you know, from different ethnic minorities to different sexual preferences, different whatever it is, you know, it’s so wide now. And, and we’re allowed in so many ways to be who we want to be. But yes, but understanding. So I wanted to express that about kindness and that’s important really and the ease in which we can do it.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 21:09
It’s huge. That whole definition of kindness, and what you can pull out of that is massive, isn’t it? And as you say, it’s so important. And I think the biggest thing that comes for me from that, is empathy. It’s having that empathy for other people, and understanding that we all think differently, we have different opinions, we live differently, we have different needs. People are carrying around different baggage and we just need to have empathy.
Nahla Summers 21:35
A Culture of Kindness and the work that I do in organisations came from this whole idea that I started from all this research that came to me about kindness. I realised it was starting to get more complex. There’s a lot of values underpinning kindness, and what that really looked like, and I realised that it was just missing from workplaces. There wasn’t one organisation that I had worked within that I thought, ‘yeah, you’re getting it right. You’re bringing all these values in.’ There was so many organisations that wanted to so badly, you know, they had it in their policy documents. But was it really embedded in the culture? No, it wasn’t what was embedded was blame, it was so evident that blame underpins everything. So I designed a theory from a whole load research that I did with CEOs who were deemed, you know, the kindest leaders, and from there, we looked at what needed to change.
Nahla Summers 22:35
The thing is, with all of this, we look at stress and anxiety, we look at all these challenges that we have within ourselves. But when you look at stress and anxiety within workplaces, so often workplaces, are trying to put sticky plasters on BIG problems! They’re saying ‘oh god, we’ll put in a Mental Health First Aider and that will fix it.’ And that doesn’t mean that I’m saying that people shouldn’t have Mental Health First Aiders, because they should, but organisations will think ‘oh, that’s it, I fixed it, that’s a solution.’ But the solution runs much deeper than that. It’s the foundations of the way that we interact, and the only way that we really do that is by bringing kindness in and allowing people to have empathy and, and talk freely about themselves and be themselves you know, without retribution. The organisations… and I use this as a great example… I ask a question to everyone at the beginning of the groups to see what comes from it, and I say, “I want you to share something that you’ve never shared with anyone at work.” The amount of people that say, “I’ve got five children”, or just standard life things about themselves that they aren’t sharing within work, because when they go into work, they go into ‘I’m this person, I’m a brand new person.’ And of course, we must have roles, but to have empathy, and to stand in the shoes of somebody else, to be able to really listen, we also have to be vulnerable enough to share of ourselves. It’s hugely important. So kindness in workplaces – kindness is the answer to so many of our challenges really.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 24:14
That sounds like a great job that you’re doing there. So this led then into you creating an annual challenge for yourself where you could go off and test your own resolve, test your resilience, face your fears, and then bring those stories back to these workplaces and to the Sunshine People. I mean, it’s all interconnected, isn’t it? But you’ve had four or five challenges now. Would that be right?
Nahla Summers 24:39
Yeah, there’s a few more but they were smaller, so I never really documented them. We actually did the cycle ride that Paul was on, which I don’t really talk about. I climbed Snowdon, and we’d obviously done Kilimanjaro. I did a walk and I did a cycle ride with one of the foster children with me. Every year, there were pretty small things until 2018 when I cycled across America and decided ‘well it’s go big or go home now,’ you know, I’m playing at this and you sit in the wings, don’t you and you go, ‘it seems like awfully hard work.’ I watch all these really incredible people pull tyres along, on their back and I think, ‘wow’, that seems big to me.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 25:36
Can I just interrupt there? I’m just thinking about your usual approach that you talked about earlier, your blind optimism. Did that not kick in then, when you were thinking, okay, I’ve got a cycle 3000 miles across America? Was it like,’ oh, my gosh, that actually, this is huge’, and how did you handle that?
Nahla Summers 25:55
So what I was, was very busy. I was REALLY busy up until that point. And I think what also happened is, and I did this across America, but you break it down. So you go, well, rather than thinking, I’m going to cycle across America, when you think of this kind of huge thing. It just paralyses you. So then I go, Okay, well, what do I need a bike so I can remember, borrowing a bike. I was working out in the Middle East at this point. So that was another reason why I hadn’t done big challenges because I was in and out as the corporate world still, and I was doing contract work. I had decided while I was out in the Middle East in Dubai, I was quitting. I’d taken a couple of months, I was re-training doing some coaching work, and I borrowed a bike while I was out there that I didn’t actually ever ride, because I couldn’t make it work. I can’t remember why. There was just all sorts of issues.
Nahla Summers 26:55
Anyway, I was running a little bit on the beach, you know, hard life, and I just didn’t know what I was getting into. I had no concept because I hadn’t cycled. I hadn’t cycled with clip-in shoes. I had not cycled a road bike before. So all of these things I didn’t really know, and I thought, well, it’s okay, because I’ll just learn along the way which you I can guarantee anyone who says they can’t, that IS what happens, you just learn. So I went in, and then I came back to the UK and it was December. I’d already booked the flight. Big tip for anybody. If you’re unsure about something and you’re umming and ahhing, just go and book the flight for a period of time, and then you will go and do it because it’s already booked. It’s too late, so you’ll find a way to do it. Anyway, booked flight for 1st March. I had two months. I bought the bike six weeks before I was due to go out, from Gumtree. It was completely the wrong bike to get. It was not a touring bike, it was a road bike and the roads that in America are brutal at times. But it was a bike, it pedalled me forwards. You can always think back and say, well, people did this without maps. You know, people did this without all that stuff that you can get nowadays. So you kind of go with this, well, it will just work out and and you are just going to propel yourself forwards.
Nahla Summers 28:30
We live very cosy lives, right? We’ve got all these wonderful things around us. But that wasn’t always the case not that long ago. So you can have very, very little and still survive and still be okay. And the kindness of strangers when you’re on these challenges as well, will propel you forwards and keep you going. So yeah, blind optimism has followed me. I’ve been blessed with it. But we can all have it if we choose to. We can all have it for sure.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 29:00
Yeah, that’s fabulous to hear that, in that you found a way. You found a way that works for you that gets you through some of these difficult times or some of through some of these plans. I say plans loosely plans.
Nahla Summers 29:14
Loosely, yeah, very loosely I would say. Yeah, it’s an idea… barely, and then I just do it. Yeah.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 29:24
I love this theme that’s running through now. ‘Loose plans.’ Well, I have something to ask you. I guess now because although I would like to talk about the challenges a bit more, I actually would dearly love to talk to you about your new book. Because by the time this lands in podcast world, your book will have been three days launched, so this is very exciting. Would you like to tell us what it’s called and a little bit about where it comes from what it’s about. Share!
Nahla Summers 29:56
It’s actually named The Accidental Adventurer. Now, this is not because I’ve had any accidents. It is because I became this kind of accidental adventurer. Year-on-year ,I started doing these things. After I cycled across America, I did the 500-mile walk and then the ElliptiGO. Then just as I’m nearing the end of writing this book, as people may have been able to hear, I don’t usually have a lisp within my speech. But I do at the moment, because I’ve broken my jaw and I have a lot of metal in my mouth. And so had an accident about four weeks ago, as I was training for my latest world record. That was a twenty-four hour world record on the ElliptiGO. So I feel like I tempted fate with The Accidental Adventurer title. But it was too late, I was stuck with it.
Nahla Summers 30:47
But yeah, within the book, it’s very much sharing the stories, the incredible people that I met, and it talks about really how we can all achieve whatever we want to. Not just in adventuring, but anything that you dream to do, you can do it, you have that capability within you. I wouldn’t say it was a big ‘rah, rah, you know, this is what you’ve got to do to do it.’ But it’s very much a storytelling book of that journey of pulling yourself up from the living room floor, really and saying, “actually, I need to live.” I’m hoping I’m selling it really! But yeah, it talks about all the adventures and goes through it. And I will say that this has been my hardest challenge. I wrote this book, and it was 120,000 words, it was a big old book. I sent it to Lindsey Duncan, the editor, and she was incredible. She wrote six pages of notes, and it was a rewrite, really. I was sad, you know, sad for a while, just just for a couple of days. But it’s okay, you know, you’re sad, and then you pick yourself up, right? You go, “what am I going to do about this?” And so I started. She was absolutely right, every note that she made was absolutely spot on. So I started working my way through the notes and started to change the book. We’ve now got a 60,000 word book that is completely rewritten. And you know, I’m very proud of it. It’s been an incredible labour of love, and would not have been the book it is today without Lindsey’s support, I’d love to say it’s just me, but it’s not really. And then Laura King did final edit, and actually all of the Sunshine People, all the stories, all the people I’ve met, I couldn’t put them all in the book. But you know, it is for all of those people, and it’s very much written for the reader. I dedicate the book to the reader because it IS written for them and for the Sunshine People that continue to support with their acts of kindness.
Nahla Summers 32:59
Zoe Langley-Wathen 33:00
It’s exciting. It is such an exciting project and yeah, like you say it was a difficult time as well. I was fortunate enough to have a pre-launch copy, and I’m 65% of my way through, I’ve been reading it and devouring it, and it’s got some amazing nuggets in there. I always talk about these pearls of wisdom and these nuggets, but it’s just littered with it all the way through and you think oh my gosh, yes, I can apply that to my own life. There are moments where you know, you might be sat in a heap outside a cafe in Northampton, having this complete and utter ‘oh, my gosh, I can’t do this anymore’ moment. But then for the reader, yes, we’re definitely able to come back to applying that to things that are going on for us. I can see where I could carry on when things are difficult. I could go those extra, was it three miles, you had to go? Yeah, there was actually something that I wanted to talk to you about that it’s so it’s about pushing yourself through when you reach moments, like that moment outside the cafe in Northampton, where you’re just like, ‘no, I can’t do this!’ how do you pull yourself through it and carry on? What do you draw on? What do you dig out to get yourself to a place where you can go ‘right Nahla, give yourself a big kick up the butt and get on and do it?’ What is it? What magic do you have?
Nahla Summers 34:23
Yeah, it is about the choice, and you may not have gotten quite there yet, but a dear friend of mine, Scott, who is really just a go-to person for me. I was in a bus stop in Leicester and I thought about what I’d written. I’d written kindness across England. I’d finished that. I was going to do the last 500 miles in a heart and anyone that knows me knows I’m not too worried about the accolades, as lovely as they are, I love them. But you know, the world record, it’s just it’s a thing to talk about kindness. And so I was about to do this heart to get the final world record, and I thought, you know, I just, I’ve had enough, I just don’t want to do any more, I’m exhausted, I’m tired. I was 4500 miles in. the weather was turning, and I sat in this bus stop, and I thought, I don’t know, what I’m going to do. There’s nobody about. COVID was ramping up. I really was on a time… time was ticking.
Nahla Summers 35:26
I called my friend, Scott and he said, “well, you’ve got two choices.” He said, “you either sit there and do nothing and go nowhere. Or you take a tiny step forwards and do something to go somewhere.” And that was it. You know, that was a summary. And although I got that message from him, you know, in this beautiful way in this conversation with him, that was really what I took forwards with me throughout all of the challenges in many ways. Because when you’re kind of doing it, you say well it’s a choice, now you’re either going to stop and do nothing, and let all of that. All of where you got to so far, you’re going to let it all go, which means that the purpose wasn’t strong enough for you, quite frankly. The purpose wasn’t big enough. Or you’re going to keep going, and you’re going to go the extra three miles, and maybe you’ll take a break for a minute, but you’re going to keep going and pushing forwards. So for me, it was all about that. It was always, I didn’t really have a choice. Either I sat there outside that cafe in Northampton, and did nothing. Because I couldn’t get a lift, there wasn’t those options to do that. So yeah, it was kind of you have to go and do SOMETHING.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 36:44
I love that. A tiny step forward, you can either do nothing, or you take a tiny step forward. And yeah, that is so relatable to life, isn’t it?
Nahla Summers 36:52
Zoe Langley-Wathen 36:53
I also liked in the book that you suggested that there are times where people will give you ideas about things to go and do. Challenges to go and do and that somehow you’re able to allow them to live through your adventures, because there are people that simply can’t go and do what you are doing. But I’m wondering, is there anything that anybody has suggested to you to do? That you’ve actually thought, ‘no way?!’ There’s absolutely no way on this earth. I’m doing that.
Nahla Summers 37:24
Do y’know, no, not yet. So, the only thing that I wouldn’t do is bungee jump, actually. But nobody suggested that and it’s not really quite the challenge that people are looking for. But yeah, the challenges, they get more interesting. They change and adapt, and I think, again, you know, it’s talking to people. It’s this communication with people, we can get very wrapped up into our phones, into communicating through Messenger, and that doesn’t develop growth or ideas. And so for me, it’s definitely about jumping on the phone, talking to friends, “oh I’ve had an idea.” And then people will say, oh, you should do this, and whatever it is, and so it tends to develop into something. Then of course, usually I’ve got these very lofty ideas of what’s going to happen, you know, these huge things. Yeah, they normally scale back a little bit in reality. But it’s okay, because you keep moving, right? You keep taking steps forward. Yeah, I agree. You know, not everyone’s going to go off and do these ridiculous things completely unprepared, because if we’re all doing that would be quite bonkers. But people are living their own adventures in one way or another, and they’re doing their own things, and they’re leaving their mark, whether that’s through a garden plot. My Dad’s makes such an impact with his bit of land and smallholding and we’re all doing our own adventures and our own journeys. It’s just deciding what you want to do, and making that purpose so that it feels enough to propel you forward so that it continues to go those extra three miles to propel you forward.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 39:11
And in doing that, that then makes you more resilient to cope with the next stage. For somebody, choosing to go and work on a piece of land, either to buy it, or to rent it, and then to work on that piece of land and use it as a smallholding, for some people that would be a massive adventure and well out of their comfort zones. It’s just choosing that element of your life that is going to push yourself out of your comfort zone and create new experiences for yourself. Yeah, I think that’s important.
Nahla Summers 39:41
Yeah, absolutely. And you know, these things take years sometimes to develop and some things that people do, take a shorter amount of time, but it’s about really doing things that you just enjoy and then kind of focusing and developing on that.
Nahla Summers 39:57
Nahla Summers 39:57
Zoe Langley-Wathen 39:58
Actually I’m really pleased you said that because I was just about to ask you, what do you fear? So if you haven’t found anything that people have suggested to you to do yet, that’s been a bit out of your comfort zone, are there things that you do fear? And I wanted to add to that, not because I’m some kind of sadistic person, but I think that we CAN enjoy things that scare us, and we can benefit from things that scare us. So I just wanted to add that in as a, as ana…
Zoe Langley-Wathen 40:26
…I wanted to add that in as an aside! Yeah, so what do you fear?
Nahla Summers 40:32
I will say fear and things going wrong. I just want to touch on both those things. So fear comes from something that we THINK might happen, usually. Unless we’re literally stood in front of a sabre-toothed tiger, and then that’s natural fear, because we fear for our life. But most of the fear that we experience is because we try to predict what might happen going forwards. I have an innate knowledge, as we all can, in fact, that when things go wrong, we actually have this ability to be stronger at the back of it. So when things don’t go right for me, I think, ‘that’s great. I’m happy with that. It’s a pain right now.’ But I know that it’s not what comes to me, will come to me for the right reasons, and I just have to go and find another route to achieve the same target. That’s a mindset. That’s just a thought process that I’ve adopted, over time. I’ve started to realise I embrace when things go wrong now, and I’m grateful for them. I don’t wish them upon myself, I don’t want them all the time. But I’m like, ‘this is great’, because I know that I’m going to come out stronger off the back of it.
Nahla Summers 41:54
So we have this ability to allow things to go wrong, but also that reduces our fear. Because we don’t then start predicting what are all the things that could go wrong, because you’ve already got this mindset where you’re going, it’s okay, when things go wrong. It’s okay to fail at something. It’s okay… well I say ‘fail’, it’s not quite the right word. But for things to fall apart, and for us to pick ourselves up and start again, because we’re gonna feel so much better for it. And also, again, when we try things that we’ve never tried before, we don’t actually know the fear that we need to face. So you know, next year, the aim is to be in New Zealand, from north to south New Zealand. I will not be Googling all the things that could happen, or the animals that I could encounter while I’m camping out. I’m not going to do that. Because I will project that and I’ll be thinking, oh my god, you know, I can’t do that dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. So that’s around not thinking too much into the future, and when our minds do that, to really change it. We have the ability to do that if we want to.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 43:07
Gosh, definitely yes. And I can see myself, I am that person who WILL Google, what could happen to me, what I might meet. I over-analyse everything, and so therefore, I am afraid of the things that I’m about to go and do before I’ve even launched myself into doing them, which is why HeadRightOut began. I guess it was as much a platform to help other women as it is to help me, or the other way around! It’s definitely something that I need to work on. I’ve got to stop over-analysing, because that’s where my fear comes in, and I know that and gosh, what you’ve said, has just gone wakey-wakey, Zoe. It’s YOU!
Nahla Summers 43:47
It’s interesting, I did a talk. This woman asked me when I was doing this talk at the q&a at the end, and said to me, what do we do about the conversations that are going on in my head about, I’m not good enough. And first of all, I talked about positive affirmations, of course, hugely important. But it’s also about when we want to keep fit, when we want to keep our bodies fit, we go to the gym, and we’ll go every day, or we might go for a walk, or we go for a run, and we know that we have to keep our bodies fit. But so often with our minds, we don’t do the regular exercise that we need to be able to get rid of those fears, to remove any procrastination we might have, and to work on those things to work on self belief. I am enough, and to repeat that, and to know that and to feel it, and to not chase down toxic environments, hoping to be liked and loved, and focus on things that do us well. So yeah, there’s a huge thing around training the brain. We can train our bodies but we need to train our brains and that was something really that came out from the adventures on the importance of that. Because it didn’t matter that I hadn’t trained actually. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t trained on my bike. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t drink from water bottle while I was cycling along, because I learnt it. I learned as I went along. But what I couldn’t do was train my brain, and that was the important thing. Yeah.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 45:20
That is such a positive take-home really from this, because it’s not just about the fear. It’s not just about how you deal with fear. That training your brain is also tackling my other big issue, which is imposter syndrome. And yeah. Everything that you have just said there applies to me, working out how I’m going to climb up that ladder, because I’m afraid of heights, but it’s also going to help me and probably thousands of other women out there as well. It’s going to help us deal with the imposter syndrome and telling ourselves that we are enough. Yeah, it’s massive. Just thank you. Thank you, Nahla.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 46:00
Well, we’re coming to the end of this amazing conversation, and there’s just so much, so much in here, and it always takes me a while to process a conversation like this with people. I’m going to go away today and really think and reflect on what you’ve said. Because I take home those messages as well. I absorb them, and I use them, and yeah, hopefully it’s all going to lead into bigger and better things. So I would like to know, has there been a HeadRightOut Moment for you, Nahla? This is something I’m collecting from each of my guests on HeadRightOut. Something where you perhaps didn’t think you were capable, but you pushed yourself well out of your comfort zone, and actually benefited from it as a result?
Nahla Summers 46:48
Thousands. Thousands of HeadRightOut Moments! Moments sat in that bus stop with Scott thinking, ‘yeah, I’m ready to give up.’ And you know, for me, the HeadRightOut is so much about training the brain, is about stepping out. And it doesn’t mean that everyone now needs to climb mountains, or do all these crazy things. But it’s about that ‘I am enough’, getting out of our heads that will spiral us into this place that’s limiting to our own development and all that we can deliver in the world. All those things that we can do for other people, it stops us from doing all those things, because we think I’m not enough. And we worry about oh what will that person think, or, you know, all of those things. And it’s coming out of that space. And I think that’s the turning moment. That’s the HeadRightOut Moment to change that chatter that’s in our heads.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 47:49
And that chatter can be so noisy can’t it?
Nahla Summers 47:53
Sooo noisy! So noisy.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 47:56
It’s just learning to turn it off. Well Nahla, thank you so much. This has been just massive, just so, so powerful for me. Would you like to share where people can find out more about you and follow you on social media and find out obviously, the big one where they can buy your new book?
Nahla Summers 48:16
Yes, very exciting. They can come and see me at www.nahlasummers.com. and that’s N A H L A and ‘summers’ like the season with an S on the end. And you can buy the book through there, but also you will be able to, on the first of November, go into any bookstore and ask them to order you a book, which I’m very excited by. The more people that do that the better, because then bookshops become more aware of the book. So yeah, you’ll be able to go into bookshops. You will be able to do Amazon as well and all of those kinds of online doors, but you know, we want to support those independent bookshops, for sure. I would love for people to go out and purchase it in the independents more than anything else, taking it back to them. So all of those things, Instagram, I’ve got TikTok and of course there’s Sunshine People but when you go to nahlasummers.com, you can find out about the Sunshine People and about a Culture of Kindness. If you’re looking to make kindness within workplaces, you can go to a Culture of Kindness and kindness within society is the Sunshine People. We’re doing some stuff in schools with Sunshine People now and all sorts of great things and of course got the workplace stuff that do lots of free stuff as well as the consultancy, so do take a look and see what works for you.
Nahla Summers 49:38
Well, thank you Nahla. This has been fantastic. I wish you absolutely 150% luck with your book. I hope it smashes into the number one spot. That’s what you need and best of luck. Thank you so much for coming on HeadRightOut.
Nahla Summers 49:54
Oh, thank you so much. Love what you’re doing Zoe. Big fan, and hopefully I’ll see you soon.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 50:08
That was such an amazing conversation with the Nahla. I loved how she talked of how the kindness of others has impacted on her, and how the kindness that we can give back to society to our friends to our communities, also can have such a huge impact. How Nahla experienced that catalyst of kindness after a period of grief, and I loved her explanation of ‘blind optimism’. I don’t think I’m guilty of that. I mean, I can be optimistic, but I don’t think I have blind optimism because I don’t just plough on into something without checking it out fully, first. There are huge messages delivered there and I know what she’s saying about how we can potentially change our world and change our culture, with acts of kindness. Many, many, many simple acts of kindness can go a long way to changing world’s, country’s problems.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 51:10
I know how great being kind to somebody can make you feel as well. Just last week, I was down in Cornwall for a couple of days, and I helped an old lady at Geevor Mine. It’s not far from St. Just, near Land’s End. It was blowing an absolute hooley, and we had reached the mine after having a few miles walk along the coast and back again. This lady in her eighties, a very small, frail lady with a bag, and a key in her hand was standing, hunched over, leaning against a wall, facing a car that was probably just five metres away. I went over to her and asked her if she was okay, and she said, “no, I’m trying to get to my car.” But she was frightened of being blown over and I said, “would you like to take my arm?” She said, “yes, please.” So she took my arm, and I guided her over to the car, and then she couldn’t open the car. She didn’t know which button to press. So I helped her with that too and waited until she got herself settled in there and showed her which buttons so that if the car locked itself, she will be able to open it for her family that were coming back a little bit later. Just in that few minutes of helping somebody else, it made me feel really good too. Not out of a selfish way, but just because I had taken the time to help somebody else who was in need. Anyway, so go and check out in Nahla on her socials. I have put all of the links to nahlasummers.com and Instagram, Facebook. I’ve put it all in the show notes, and don’t forget to go and order her new book from your local bookshop, The Accidental Adventurer, you are going to love it.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 52:59
Okay, so I have got some exciting news to share with you. A couple of years ago I did my 100ScaryDays, and my 100th Scary Day was always going to be a skydive, and it’s all bought and paid for. I paid for it myself, and it got cancelled twice, due to bad weather conditions. Then it couldn’t happen because of the pandemic, and then I moved up to Wales, and then we’ve had other family issues that we’ve been dealing with. So it didn’t get rebooked. But last week, I have rebooked it and it is happening on the 12th of November with GoSkydive. I am so, so excited, but also a bit scared. I am just going to take it as it comes. I’m trying to blot out any feelings of how I’m going to feel when I’m standing in the aeroplane and we’re about to jump. But it is going to be fabulous. I’m sure it’s going to be a challenge episode. I’m going to use it for the podcast. Yes, there is a video happening as well and photographs. So it will be on social media too.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 54:00
Now bearing all of this in mind, I did mention in my first ‘solopisode’ that I was looking for a name to call these challenge episodes. I’m still looking for a name I have had some suggestions which are on my sheet of paper, to be considered. But if you have any clever ideas about what you think I should call these episodes where I head out of my comfort zone, doing scary stuff, and I record it and edit it and deliver it back to you, as an outside episode, please come back to me with your suggestions because I would love to finally give it a name.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 54:39
Okay, this week’s HeadRightOut Moment – it’s a lovely, lovely HeadRightOut Moment. It’s been sent to me by Kirsty Gwynn-Jones, all the way from South Australia. So she says I’d like to share with you my bike packing trip around the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia. I rode this almost 500 kilometre track called the Walk the Yorke, which has both a walking and cycling version, and I did it in 2018.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 55:04
I planned ahead (I mean a day or two before), and booked basic accommodation for four nights. My husband will and our children dropped me off in Moonta, the night before I headed off, remember will giving me a lesson on bike mechanics before they left. I was riding my son’s Trek mountain bike. I really didn’t know what I was doing, and I only carried a small backpack with a change of clothes, spare tyre tubes, some tools, a few snacks (there aren’t many shops on the route), and water along with a litre of water on my bike.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 55:35
On day one, I headed off at sunrise thinking that that would give me enough time to ride the 120 or so kilometres I thought I’d be covering that day before sunset. Not far into the day I was on very sandy tracks. When I followed the signs onto a beach. I knew that was wrong, but it wasn’t too hard to ride on. So I continued on riding on the beach for quite a few kilometres, and eventually I rejoined the trail. I remember I could hear lovely native bird songs all day. There was some really tough riding, or not riding where I continually had to get off my bike and push it through the super soft sand! That became the theme of the day. I met a lovely retired English couple camping near the beach and shared a coffee with them. There was lots of beautiful scenery and sand dunes, saltbush and occasional sea views.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 56:23
The hours disappeared, and I found myself riding in the dark. Luckily, I had bike lights. I range the owner of the cabin, I was heading to at Port Turton, because I realised I wasn’t going to make it there in time for the pub meal I’ve been planning on. He kindly organised a frozen pizza for me instead. My watch ran out of power that night, but I recorded more than 116 kilometres before that happened, and there was at least five kilometres after. I was tired, but full of a sense of achievement.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 56:52
The next day, I headed off early again and remembered the beautiful light on the rocky corrugated tracks. My back was really aching from the weight of the backpack. So I took out the heaviest things; the spare thorn-proof tubes, and tied them around the bike frame. Then I secured them with a shopping bag. This must have looked crazy, but it helped my back, so I didn’t really care. I recorded this day on Strava as some “gnarly tracks and beautiful sights”. Stunning coastline and beaches were the theme of this day, a few sandy spots and lots of sunshine. I remember lots of animals too. Cattle and sheep in paddocks, but heaps of roos also.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 57:33
The Corny Point Lighthouse was a highlight, as were the beach views along the rough rocky roads after. My back ached when I had a patch of bitumen riding, and I remember seeing a cloudy ring around the sun and wondering if that meant rain. I was excited to reach the beautiful Innes National Park that I always loved visiting. Of course there were loads of roos and even a few emus to keep me company.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 57:55
Again it got dark quickly and as I headed closer to Marion Bay, my front light failed because I’d forgotten to turn it off soon enough, earlier in the day. I used my red flashing light on the front of the bike, to alert the few cars on the road. But it didn’t help me see very far. This time. I wasn’t too late for that pub meal, and it was awesome! I’d covered more than 124 kilometres.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 58:22
The third day began along another corrugated white rocky road. I ran into the lovely surfy owner of the cabin that I’d stayed in the night before, on a remote bit of road and was initially shocked when he knew my name. Having spoken on the phone, he said in a kindly way, “there’s no other mad females out here riding, so I knew it had to be you!” The morning went on forever, and the scenery wasn’t that exciting. Until that point I’d been filling up with water at the track water tanks, but the few I passed were empty. I realiesd it was likely to be seventy kilometres before I could refill with no towns until Edithburgh, so I was careful with my water.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 59:03
There was a crazy section where I was riding through spinafex, and I cursed whoever thought it was rideable but kept going anyway. Then I found the most stunning cliffs around the beaches, and felt I discovered another Great Ocean Road, but with the roughest road ever. It was windy and the low bushes had that awkward lean, often seen on clifftops. I was in heaven with the views near Troubridge Lighthouse until I nearly fell off in a crazily corrugated downhill! But I stayed on a high as I cycled through a narrow grey-sanded bush section, hoping not to see a snake. Then I was under the creepy shadows of the wind turbines, and there was smoke in the distance. I was hoping it wasn’t a bushfire. Suddenly, I popped out onto a gravel trail, with lovely mosaics on rocks every 200 metres, or so. I stopped to admire and photograph a few, but was too hungry and thirsty to stop for very long.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 59:59
I remember the juiciness of the steak sandwich I had before heading off towards Port Vincent. Again, I saw the beautiful light of the sun on the stubble. It was April and autumn and lots of lovely old ruins of early farmhouses. I arrived after dark and decided the banana bread I bought at lunchtime would do for dinner. After more than 133 kilometres, I was exhausted but so fulfilled, titling my Strava record of the day. ‘Awesomeness’.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 1:00:30
A pink sunrise again over another jetty started the day and I was off along some soft dirt tracks through the bush. I fell once but not heavily. My bum was very sore and I wrapped the bandages from my first aid kit around my seat, to soften the impact of sitting. I loved riding past the gigantic silos, at Ardrossan and past some pink salt lakes. The crusty sand that my tyres sank into as I neared Port Wakefield was not so much fun, and I had to use the mantra, ‘the body achieves what the mind believes’, to push through.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 1:01:04
I finished the day and met Will, having ridden a total of 477 kilometres. I was so tired, sun-weary, but completely ecstatic that I have ridden the Walk the Yorke on my own. I learned so much about persevering and how to prepare for my next bike packing trip.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 1:01:27
Wow, Kirsty that is just such a beautifully written HeadRightOut Moment, and how incredible that you got to do that on your own and that your husband supported you by taking you there. So often when we have younger children that rely on us that you know, are still dependent on us, we don’t feel like we have the opportunity or the permission even, to be able to go off and do that. But having that support just is so important. That backup from your family. Kirsty did this, and made her adventure such a memorable time. And she drew on so many different skills, and no doubt had a range of different emotions and feelings. You know, I could feel it was going up and down, up and down all the way through. The frustration, and the elation, and even coping with the boring bits. Those boring bits are not always that easy, and can really test your level of endurance.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 1:02:29
So you can check Kirsty out on Instagram, her account is k runs south aus. Now I’m going to spell that out for you because it’s not actually how it looks. It looks like KRUNSSOUTHAUS, so it’s KRUNSSOUTHAUS and I will put the link in the show notes so you can go and check out Kirsty Gwyn James on Instagram. Her photos are fab, she’s lives a really active lifestyle, and yes, I would thoroughly recommend going and following her. So thank you, Kirsty.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 1:03:03
Okay, that’s it from me for this week. We have got an amazing episode next week with Ursula Martin, who is otherwise known as One Woman Walks. She has completed an incredible 5500 mile journey across Europe recently, so I will be chatting with Ursula. Until then, have an amazing week. Get out there and do something that scares you. Test your resilience. Plan to do something that’s going to help you head out of your comfort zone. Keep that head right and healthy, doing things that test you and inspire you in your outside space. HeadRightOut hugs to you all.