This is a tale of how I helped an Australian family I met in Iran to play table tennis on top of The Great Wall of China.
It really is a small world!
Last Summer I had the privilege of sharing a stage in Tehran over two days with a host of great speakers from around the globe, including Paul Brown. Paul is an expert on customer retention in the fitness industry and had brought his wife, Jacqui, and son, Ben on the trip with him.
The visit to Iran was a test run for a big project the Brown family had planned, 50 Sports in 50 Weeks. The aim of the project is to 'get the world off the couch...one sport at a time!' by participating in 50 sports in 50 weeks in 50 of the most iconics locations around the world and learning about each sport from 50 of the greatest sporting athletes and teams they could.
That trip is well under way now. It started back in October with Beach Volleyball close to home on Australia's Gold Coast and a few weeks ago brought them to London. I spent a very enjoyable afternoon with Team Brown and Goldie Sayers, the British record holder for the javelin and Team GB Captain at last year's European Championships.
Over dinner after the javelin training session, I overheard one of Paul's crew ask him if he had managed to arrange something for their forthcoming trip to China.
"No", said Paul, "My contact there said he didn't want to get involved. You don't want to upset the authorities in China!".
I asked what they were trying to achieve and Paul explained that they wanted to play table tennis on top of The Great Wall of China. However, getting permits to do something like that and negotiating their way to taking a table up in a tourist hotspot would be more trouble than it would be worth in the short period of time they had.
A few years ago I visited China on a trip around Asia with my girlfriend at the time. My girlfriend had a connection to someone who ran executive retreats at The Great Wall and we had visited the retreat while there, sipping Champagne at sunset and sleeping out on the Wall.
I wondered if the retreat was still there and if they could help. I called my ex-girlfriend who contacted her former client. He had sold the retreat but was in touch with the person who had bought it. We introduced Paul to them and waited to see what would happen.
This morning, I received an email from Paul with these pictures:
Nothing is ever impossible. You just need to be creative in finding your solutions. The right answer is not always the obvious one but often will lie within your network.
If you've read my work before, even if you haven't, the chances are you are fully aware of the theory of Six Degrees of Separation. It's not just a theory, it has very practical uses.
The people you want to meet, the people with the ideas, experience and expertise you lack, the people who can make your dreams a reality, lie somewhere within your network. Ask for help, make sure people around you know what you want to achieve and who knows what you could achieve.
Not even the Great Wall of China need be insurmountable!