On December 31st 2019, like any other year, we collectively sat around on New Year’s Eve and guessed what might lay ahead for the new decade. Boy, were we wrong! Many of us probably wished for the usual things; less stress, more family time, less food and more exercise.

The realty was that 2020 was a year like not other. Covid-19 ensured New Zealanders, except for our amazing essential workers, had a 51 day self imposed stay-cation. Working from home became the normal, along with zoom calls, teaching our kids long division and attempting to make sour dough bread. On the world front we scrolled through our daily social media feeds and watched as the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum, Donald Trump rolled from chaos to carnage each week, and Covid-19 swept across the world.

I have the blessing of having my birthday on New Years Eve, the 31st December. I like having my birthday then as it breaks up the years into nice even blocks. Over the past few years my birthday has always involved the setting of a yearly challenge. Now a challenge is slightly different to a resolution. Resolutions are usually made in order to correct something people are unhappy with. To change something; to improve a weakness or to break a habit. At the heart of a resolution is the idea that you current life is not good enough. You don’t measure up in some area and you have to change.
I need to be fitter.
I need to lose weight.
I need to …

Challenges on the other hand are about personal discipline and organisation. They require you to plan, organise and adjust your life to accomplish something extraordinarily average. In fact the more ordinary, the better. Yearly challenges won’t improve your life, nor do they offer any great wisdom to the outside world. All they will do give you a small task that you have to achieve each day.

My first challenge started in 2008 with the goal of writing a blog for a year. This saw the creation of the the critically acclaimed Ozymandias Warning blog and subsequent book entitled ‘I am Alarmed’. Following that, who could forget 2009 where I used the same Gillette razor for a year. Shaving once per day, things got a little sketchy around June, but my blade managed to stay sharp and see me through the year.

In 2010, I completed one of my proudest personal achievements, wearing the same pair of underwear for an entire calendar year. Going with the old school silk boxers was inspired genius. I was able to wash them regularly, they were quick drying and yes, to answer your question, they were crotch-less by the 31st December. They still live in my draw and like a lucky golf hat they still get used on important occasions.
The year 2011 marked my first of two failures. A hospital visit in April for suspected appendicitis, curtailed my attempt to see if it was possible to eat 3000 Weetbix in a calendar year. Despite numerous accusations, there was no evidence to suggest that my high-fibre diet clogged up my insides. However, the resumption of more balance diet did see the symptoms subside. I still feel proud that I ate 907 weetbix in just over 2 months.

Failure continued in 2012 when my best efforts of completing an elaborate push up challenge ended when I broke my ribs in a bike crash. My plan had been to start on January 1st with one press up and then add one per day until I was doing 365 on my birthday. Unfortunately, I made it to day 274 before the plastic bag holding my lunch decided to lodge itself in my front spokes as I rode down a hill on my commute home from work.

Failing my yearly challenge 3 times in a row was not an option. So I went with the relatively safe option in 2013 of using no pillow when sleeping. Success continued in 2014 when I went an entire calendar year only drinking water.   

The year 2015 saw me revolt against one of the key comforts of our 21st century lifestyle and live like Wim Hof. This involved a year of cold showers, which also resulted in a year of short showers during winter.

On a roll with my yearly challenge, 2016 proved to be the easiest with a year away from social media. The first month was hard and then the rest was easy.

Without doubt the hardest challenge was completed in 2017. The dream was to run for a minimum of 30 minutes every day. I have always enjoyed running so on the outside this seemed like natural fit for me. However, a bad case of planta fasciitis in November reduce my running to into more of a nightmare.

Green vegetables were on the 2018 menu when ate one brussels sprout a day. I did fail this one due to an extended evening out on the town, however, I made up for it with a couple extra the next day.  

The year 2019, saw one of my son’s friends come up with the idea of the same knife, fork and spoon for a year. A great idea and an even greater talking point over meals. This challenge was not without interesting moments, like having to go into the kitchen at the Cook’s Beach Café and retrieve my utensils after the waitress removed them while I was in the toilet. Who could also forget having to drive home between courses to ensure I could eat the steak I had ordered during an important school function. Special thanks to my daughter for colouring my utensils so that they were so easy to find on both occasions.

In 2020, I completed what I can only describe as my most beneficial challenge. In the year of Covid, I got up at 5:11am every morning. This was a challenge I thoroughly enjoyed and added some much needed organisation to my otherwise chaotic life.

So as we sit on the cusp of 2021, what does the year hold for me? Thank you to those people that have given me suggestions about my 2021 Challenge. The same colour T-Shirt, sleep naked, a Ted Talk a Day, watch the entire Star Trek Series, read the encyclopedia Britannica in a year, or even a photo a day. All great ideas and show that I have the next few years covered.

But I have never completed a music challenge. So in 2021 I am going to listen to the same song everyday for a year. Once per day for 365 days in a row, I will listen to the Bob Dylan classic, voted by RSM as the world’s greatest song, ‘Like a Rolling Stone’.

I hope that the words from Bob Dylan, in his song Up to Me, ring true for you in 2021.

It frightens me, the awful truth, of how sweet life can be…

Bob Dylan