A champ at inspiration

The guy on the left in the photo is Mick Extance and next to him Steph Jeavons.

Both are good friends who joined me on a training trip to Morocco several years ago when I was chasing the opportunity to be Canada’s first driver to complete the Dakar Rally.

Today, Steph arrived in Kathmandu with a group of women who are going to be the first women to ride motor bikes to Mount Everest base camp. Steph, you might recall, recently set a world’s first record by riding her Honda CRF 250 around the world on all seven continents. 

Mick, by contrast, is fighting the biggest fight of his life. 

After entering the Dakar seven times and finishing in the top 25, he was ranked as Britain’s top Dakar rider until Sam Sunderland won the motorbike category in 2017. 

Mick was going to be my co-driver with the Bowler Motorsports team in the U.K., hence the training in the Sahara. This photo was taken the day we entered the dunes and I subsequently broke a collar bone and two ribs. Mick’s challenge was, however, yet to come. 

Mick’s goal is and always had been to inspire people to reach beyond their own personal beliefs and stretch, and he was a master at it. He certainly found a way to push me hard on the Morocco trip.

A few years ago though, Mick’s journey took a significant turn. He collapsed in his yard in Wales and after arriving at the hospital, it was discovered he had a very serious brain tumour.

No ticket home from the hospital until he had seven hours of surgery removing half of a tumour around a significant blood vessel at the base of his brain.

I saw photos of him on Facebook and the medication he was taking was disfiguring his face. 

I went to the U.K. about four months after his operation and we had lunch. 

We pulled in to the car park of a delightful Welsh pub and my brother looked at me and said “Mick is really happy to see you, he wants a serious conversation.”

In the back of my mind, I knew what was coming. 

We sat down and almost immediately Mick looked at me and said:

“We’ve got some unfinished business, mate. We never did the Dakar and I might only have one last shot. We are doing the Dakar in 2020.”

I choked back the lump in my throat and pretended my eyes were not watery. I managed to say I would think about it. In reality. I knew that the timing was just bad for me with business. 

Bad didn’t even describe Mick’s timing. He knew that the remaining tumour could grow, but the surgeon said the operation was very risky because of the location.

But that has not deterred Mick in the past and never would. I knew he was going to do it. Mick doesn’t back down. 

As we walked back from the pub to his house, he told me a story of a person in his village who had a similar diagnosis and was completely uplifted by Mick spending time with them and talking about the process he went through to not only keep the will to live, but also enter the Dakar. 

Mick is entered, and I won’t be joining him, at least on this attempt. Perhaps a four-wheel drive attempt with Mick is in my future.

But I don’t think Mick has the all clear to get his competition licence, regardless that won’t stop him.

But my point with the column is that a story like this is ultimately incredibly inspirational.

A lot of personal time and money is invested in the project to make it work; your economic life usually goes backward not forward. Yet, in reality, as inspirational as I think it is, very few people show up to help raise money for the cause that the adventurer chooses.

Whether it is someone who climbs Everest or sails an ocean single handed or runs across a country the amount of money raised usually is around a few thousand dollars. 

In Mick’s case, I guarantee you if the regulations allow him to compete, he will, I also guarantee you, if he starts, he will finish or he will literally die trying in this attempt.

His vision is bigger than the Dakar; he wants people to know that brain tumours are not always terminal.

His will to fight, to live, to race is compelling. Please take a look at his page and if nothing else send Mick an encouraging note from North America:



Stop the puck-ing noise!

As if the ringing in my ears from tinnitus isn’t enough, the world is intent on delivering a constant chorus of “puck-ing” alerts.

My phone often goes “puck-ing” at the same time as other people’s phones do the same.

  • My fridge beeps if you leave the door open
  • my microwave bings
  • Twitter bings
  • Instagram pings
  • my fire alarm goes off randomly.

Thankfully, my vehicles remain relatively low tech, so I get a break from all the flipping beeps and puck-ings that appear to be delivered by the minute.

I am in Seattle on business and rented a car. While I was driving to Kent, Wash., my stupid car would give a series of beeps every few minutes.

If you read my column at all, you will know I dislike driver aids that reduce our need to learn to drive properly and provide a distraction to the task at hand. 

So here I was on a crowded I5 highway and every few minutes, my car  would give me a series of beeps.

  • Did I have low tire pressure somewhere?
  • Was I driving too close to something?
  • Was I losing oil?

Who knew? My car would not indicate why it was beeping, it would just beep. While I am driving I am trying to figure out what the heck was going on. 

That was when I figured I would try something completely stupid and do the seat belt up on the passenger seat on which I had placed my iPad!


The stupid flipping car had correlated the weight on my iPad to that of a 200-pound adult and decided that my iPad was in a terribly dangerous situation by not wearing a seatbelt. 

See what I mean... driver aids gone nuts. It was an absolutely redundant piece of audible garbage that did nothing than provide a very dangerous distraction while driving on a busy highway. 

In aviation, audible alarms are serious. There are not many of them, but when you hear them, you had better pay attention.

They also sound different from each other so you already know what the problem is without scratching your head and wondering what is happening. 

Driving a car is as dangerous as flying a plane. Two cars passing at 100 km/h is a 200 km/h accident that nobody will walk away from without a miracle — as bad as any aviation incident.

Yet, we are filling our cars with stupid dings and distractions. Enough already. 

Having fought with my cars audible alert systems for most of the day, it was interesting to arrive back at my hotel at happy hour where a conference for the deaf community was happening.

Of course, the bar was full. Interestingly, it was stone cold silent. Everybody was laughing silently, smiling, telling jokes in sign language, etc.

It was a strange scene, but rather pleasant after having spent a day in a binging car.

It did make me wonder, however, if your communication is sign language, can you slur after an extra glass of wine and do you apologize?

The wonder of home

We absolutely live in one of the best places in the world. But perhaps you are like me and spend so much time in other areas that you don't even notice where you live live. 

As soon as I immigrated to Canada in 1988 and moved to Canmore, I promised my wife I would never be complacent. I always would remind myself in the morning how fortunate we were to wake up in Canada. 

As life goes on, rather than complacency, it is routine or just being plain busy that distracts us from really soaking in the surroundings. 

This week, as a relatively new resident to the Kootenays I decided to blow the dust off my motorbike and ride to see my wife in Nakusp. 

I rode up the Lardeau Valley to Trout Lake and truly soaked up the scenery. Other than the occasional bear, I didn’t see anyone. The views were as magnificent as Tombstone Range on the Dempster Highway heading to Inuvik. 

Every corner revealed a new vista or more wildlife. As I exited the steep valley after Trout Lake, the surroundings became more pastoral and I noticed a small creek with some trout feeding.

I put my fly rod together, wandered through tall grass to the creek bank and quickly pulled out and returned two nice brook trout. 

I was in heaven and all I did was take a slight detour. My soul was refreshed. 

After supper, with my wife, I carried on to Kelowna the next morning for meetings and almost caught myself booking a hotel when I realized I could actually camp.

So I called in at Echo Lake resort in Lumby. I didn’t stay in a four-star hotel, but I did have a four-billion star night.

I slung my hammock between a couple of trees and had a perfect nights sleep before an early dawn chorus of loons, eagles and osprey beckoned me to go fishing with them.

It would have been all too easy to just blast through to Okanagan on the usual route, stay at the same hotel and return none the wiser. 

What an amazing place to live.


An Uber question

Should Uber drivers be better qualified than regular drivers?

 should hope so.

In reality, around the world that is not the case that taxi or Uber drivers are better qualified.

Most of Uber’s driver ratings have to do with pleasantries and service than reliable and safe driver skill. I am certainly an Uber passenger, but I fail to see the argument that drivers should be allowed to have a regular Class 5 licence only.

Take a look on B.C. highways and look at the demonstrated standard of driving and you should be afraid of even being on the road. 

The fact that the government wants to impose a licence requirement similar to commercial vehicle operators is admirable, but, frankly, it is not enough.

The ability to pass a test and acquire a licence assumes that you can meet the minimum standards required. 

What is missing is a commitment to recurrent driver training that teaches people how to “drive their car” not how to pass a test, which is the way the system is set up today. 

Nobody gets standard or mandatory training in winter driving; it is just implied here that we drive in winter.

But if your Uber driver or, for that matter, a cab driver, gets in to an uncontrolled skid, do they have the knowledge and skills required to get out of it?

Likely not unless they are a retired RCMP driver. 

The point is, the basic licence means very little and Uber should be more concerned that their drivers are “good and competent drivers” rather than complaining about a licence that is pretty standard for people making a living moving people around in a vehicle.

Sadly, to my knowledge, nobody is looking at recurrent training, and nobody is looking at advanced driver development.

We can only hope that any driver has the required stills to avoid or mitigate a preventable incident.

More It's All About . . . articles

About the Author

Mark has been an entrepreneur for over forty years. His experience spans many commercial sectors and aspects of business. He was one of the youngest people to be appointed as a Fellow of the prestigious Institute of Sales and Marketing Management before he left the UK in 1988.

His column focuses on ways we can improve on success in our lives. Whether it is business, relationships, or health, Mark has a well-rounded perspective on how to stay focused for growth and development.

His influences come from the various travels he undertakes as an adventurer, philanthropist and keynote speaker. More information can be found on Mark at his website www.markjenningsbates.com

He is a Venture Partner with www.DutchOracle.com a global Alternative Investment company.

Mark Jennings-Bates:
[email protected]

Photo credit: www.SteveAustin.ca 

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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