In times of difficulty, when the environment is brutal, when so many are losing their heads, two paths appear.

The easy path is inward looking, unimaginative and prudent. It’s defensive, apologetic and and appeals to those obsessed with damage limitation. If you take this path, you will probably lose, but at least you reduce the chances of getting hammered.

The hard path is breathtakingly audacious and requires indefatigable courage. Like Liverpool’s second half against Milan in the 2005 Champions League Final; like Sean Murray mortgaging his house to make Joe Danger; like Zlatan Ibrahimovic against England the other night, I choose the hard path, because although I might fall flat on my arse more often than not, one day I will pull off the greatest overhead kick ever scored.


It was the first time Tony and I were going to Japan. It was special for both of us, for different reasons. Tony was a Japanophile, and my father always wanted to spend a few years of his life there.

We worked for Virgin Interactive, so naturally, we flew Virgin. One of the perks of using a partner company was that your ticket got marked with “SAU” for “Space Available Upgrade”. This meant that whatever the class of travel, if space was available, we’d get upgraded automatically. 

While we were waiting to find out if there was any space, Tony and I discussed the Islamic concept of reward. which he was quite interested in, so I explained further.

“For every good action, you get rewarded in the next life seven times over”

“That sounds cool” Tony said, intrigued. “What about this life?”

“Yeah, sometimes this life too, though not always. We’re not meant to do good deeds just to get payback in this life. We do good deeds because it’s right to do good deeds. God offers us up to 700x return on our good deeds in the next life”

We carried on in this vein when a Virgin representative came over, looking rather apologetic.

“I’m sorry guys, but there’s only a single seat in Premium Economy available.”

I didn’t hesitate.

“Tony, I want you to have it”

“No it’s alright, it really should be you Shahid”

“It’s fine Tony. I’ve been upgraded before. This is your first time and we’re going to Japan. You’re taller. I’ll be fine in Economy, it’s actually really good on Virgin”

So Tony got the upgrade and I sat down in the Economy seat. I put my headphones on and was happy. I was comfortable and I felt good that I’d done something for my friend.

As we were about to take off, a stewardess approached me, smiling broadly.

“Mr. Ahmad, we’ve managed to find a space for you with your companion. Would you like to come with me?”

I returned the smile, but not just because I was getting the unexpected upgrade. As I approached Tony, he looked at me quizzically, expecting a question. As I went to sit down next to the newly empty seat next to him, he looked shaken, and I knew why.

“Sometimes Tony, God pays you back pretty quickly”


The first and only time I ever hit 150mph on the ground was on my Ducati 999. I felt so alive and awake and conscious and aware. My eyes were never more sharply fixed upon my goal: the point at which the road met the horizon. My hearing was never more acute; my body never so connected to the machine I commanded to propel me like an Angry Red Bird out of a slingshot to a point I could not yet see, but absolutely trusted to appear.

That’s what you need to pursue and achieve a goal. Total, unwavering focus and bloody-minded, burn-your-bridges commitment. I’d come a long way from a near disaster that had almost ended me.

When once I nearly came off my bike on the Stockley Park roundabout, it was because my toe slider had caught under the peg as I leant the bike over onto my ear. I’d always wanted to get the bike leant over that far. I had just not been prepared for the unexpectedness of that success.

The bike wobbled badly and I straightened up and was heading for the wall. I felt death approaching as I stared at that final wall, the hard limit of my existence. Then suddenly, a voice in my head said calmly “LOOK. FOR. THE. EXIT.” I turned my head sharply towards it and without conscious effort, the bike sailed over, carrying me safely back on course. I screamed into my helmet like Steve McQueen at the end of Papillon.

Sometimes, when you’re going for something really big in your life and you achieve it, like touching down on a roundabout, like delivering on a major milestone, like getting some success in your projects, it can cause a wobble that can make you lose sight of your ultimate goal; can make you lose confidence in what you can achieve when you’re firing on all cylinders.

Listen to that small, still voice directing you to the exit and you will sail on.

You’re good enough. Live your life fully. You have it in you to achieve what you set your heart on if you stay totally, unflinchingly committed with searing focus and belief. Don’t wish for it, or hope for it, or pray for it, unless you’re willing to get behind it with absolutely every fibre of your being, including those fibres you keep in reserve because you’re scared.

Go do it, not because the fear tells you that can’t, but because that quiet, calm, still voice shows you that you can. You can.

You can.