JUSTIN LANGER: How Nedd Brockmann’s marathon inspired my friend and taught him not finishing is not failure

Justin Langer
The Nightly
6 Min Read
Justin Langer: How Nedd Brockmann’s marathon inspired Josh Ferguson and taught him not finishing doesn’t mean failure. Pictured: Allan Border (left) Nedd Brockman (Right).
Justin Langer: How Nedd Brockmann’s marathon inspired Josh Ferguson and taught him not finishing doesn’t mean failure. Pictured: Allan Border (left) Nedd Brockman (Right). Credit: Supplied

“Get some feathers on your wings.”

I had never heard that expression until I read it this week.

An executive was reminiscing about when he sat down for a performance review years ago when one of the firm’s partners told him: “I think you’re doing a really good job, but you need to get some feathers on your wings.”

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The executive said: “I still use that to this day. I have learned that what he meant was to broaden. It’s not just about working hard and fast. It’s broadening your leadership, broadening your capability.”

Over the years I have heard different versions of this philosophy, but this line really resonated with me.

The same day I read “get some feathers on your wings”, I received a message from a young man by the name of Josh Ferguson. I met Josh last year at Telethon where he was running for 24 hours on a treadmill. His mighty physical effort was intriguing, but it was more his spirit of positivity and ambition that I was drawn to.

When I was in the Australian cricket team we used to live by the phrase, “attitude is contagious, is yours worth catching?”. Every time I talk to Josh, I leave feeling his attitude is worth catching.

A few months ago, Josh told me about his next challenge of running 50 marathons in 50 days. Imagine that. Fifty marathons in 50 days. That’s a total of 2110 kilometres across 50 days.

Ask Josh why he would even contemplate such a complex and painful feat and he will tell you: “I just want to raise as much money as I can for Telethon. Their support of the West Australian community (including myself) over decades has been incredible.”

A couple of years ago Josh found himself at a low point in his life.

“I spent years being unhappy with the person I was,” he said. “I was given a massive head start in life, in every measurable metric, but I wasn’t doing anything with it.

“In my teenage years, I couldn’t even stand to look at myself in the mirror. I knew I needed to make a change, I just wanted to be proud of who I was.”

Around this time, Josh found a new hero, through social media.

Nedd Brockmann, a young man with a bright blonde mullet, inspired Australia when he ran across the country from Cottesloe in Perth to Bondi Beach in Sydney to raise money for homelessness prevention. His story is incredible.

Nedd Brockmann reacts after crossing the finish line after running 4000km from Perth to Sydney, at the North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club in Sydney, Monday, October 17, 2022.
Nedd Brockmann reacts after crossing the finish line after running 4000km from Perth to Sydney, at the North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club in Sydney, Monday, October 17, 2022. Credit: STEVEN SAPHORE/AAPIMAGE

A 24-year-old electrician from NSW, his goal was raising money and awareness after being shocked by how many people were without homes and living on the streets of Sydney.

By the time Nedd crossed the finish line at Bondi beach in front of more than 10,000 fans, he had created a movement. Running almost 100km a day for 46 and a half days, he became the fastest Australian to achieve this feat.

Along the journey he raised $2.5 million for his cause and had people around the world mesmerised by his extraordinary achievement.

My family talked about his daily effort at the dinner table almost every night. I bought one of his hoodies that has the catchcry, “get comfortable being uncomfortable” splashed over it. A good reminder.

Nedd’s incredible effort inspired Josh to set off for his first run. He’s been a running disciple ever since.

Before I left for India, Josh excitedly told me about an event in Perth called Herdy’s Frontyard Ultra. Billed as the ultimate endurance test of the mind, body and soul, participants tackle a 6.71 km loop on the hour, every hour until they basically tap out and secure a DNF tag.

The race finishes with the last person standing. I have heard of some crazy stuff in my life!

Nedd Brockmann reacts after crossing the finish line after running 4000km from Perth to Sydney, at the North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club in Sydney, Monday, October 17, 2022.
Nedd Brockmann reacts after crossing the finish line after running 4000km from Perth to Sydney, at the North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club in Sydney, Monday, October 17, 2022. Credit: STEVEN SAPHORE/AAPIMAGE
Nedd Brockmann has completed a 3800km run across Australia.
Nedd Brockmann has completed a 3800km run across Australia. Credit: Nedd Brockmann/instagram/supplied

Josh spoke passionately about his preparation, planning and goals for the race. Considering he is still only 20 I was hesitant to tell him that winning such an event might be out of his grasp in his first year.

I listened and encouraged him to love and learn from the weekend.

On Monday, Josh messaged me here in India. His words were priceless.

“G’day mate it’s Josh here, really struggled for the last man standing race and only got 12 loops in, or 80km. Learnt a lot about myself and the position I am in, and was truly humbled by this event. I know what I must improve on; it’s time to get back to the lab!”

He then followed up a day later with: “My first ever backyard ultra-experience, what a day to remember. I had this vision going in, of a grand event, a triumphant performance where I shine through the darkness of the struggle.

“Unfortunately, things didn’t play out that way. And that’s OK. In fact, it’s not just OK, it’s necessary.

Josh Ferguson (c) with his auntie (l), dad (2nd left), mum (2nd from right) and sister (r).
Josh Ferguson (c) with his auntie (l), dad (2nd left), mum (2nd from right) and sister (r). Credit: Unknown/Supplied

“Up until this point, I’ve set crazy unrealistic goals and hit them every time. But there is a great lesson to learn when you miss the mark, where you fall short of what you have dreamed. That is necessary.

“Through falling short, missing the mark and not being as good as I wanted to be, I learnt so many valuable lessons.

“I wasn’t mentally strong enough to take on the challenge that I set, and that’s OK. There’s something magical about knowing that you are not where you want to be.

“Time to continue aiming upwards, the fact that I am not satisfied with where my abilities are now, excites me.

“I’ve got some work to do. And I love it.”

When I read this, I found Josh’s message to be profound and incredibly mature for a 20-year-old.

He is learning from a young age that “getting some feathers on your wings” is a crucial part of the journey of life and success.

When we are young, we want success straight away, and when it doesn’t fall into our lap many find this hard to deal with.

But the truth is, that’s how life works, regardless of the field you are in.

In my third Test match for Australia, I was batting with the great Allan Border when he scored his 10,000th Test run.

Australia captain Allan Border holds the trophy as Dean Jones (l) looks on after Australia had beaten England by 7 runs to win the 1987 Cricket World Cup Final in Calcutta, India.
Australia captain Allan Border holds the trophy as Dean Jones (l) looks on after Australia had beaten England by 7 runs to win the 1987 Cricket World Cup Final in Calcutta, India. Credit: Getty Images/Getty Images

That night I remember writing in my journal: “If AB can do that, why can’t I???”

His record back then drove me throughout my career. If you walked into my inspiration room at home, you would see the number 10,000 written on the walls numerous times.

When times got tough and I’d been dropped, or my form or attitude was waning, I would often go into the room with my trusty permanent marker and find another part of the wall to write the number 10,000. A simple reminder and spark to get me going again.

By the time my career was over I never reached that pinnacle number. That’s OK. It did act as a guide though; a light at the end of a tunnel that often got dark, scary, disappointing and frustrating.

Josh reminded me this week that the bumps along the way are a necessity for growth.

Setting high goals may not always be achieved but it you’re out there having a crack, loving the moment, there is something _ as Josh would say: “Magical about knowing that you are not where you want to be. Not yet anyway.”

How cool is that?

You can’t fly without feathers and if you aim for the moon and miss, you’ll still be a star.

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