Jeremy contacted me out of the blue and asked me to participate in the programme and give him some feedback on it, given my interest in all things performance and motivation, and the links between doing so in both sports and business. I jumped at the chance and have really enjoyed the whole 30 day programme.
The programme itself is easy to follow and take part in. Its a 5 minute video clip each day from a famous world-class sportsperson, followed by some analysis from Jeremy, and some links to related material and more videos along with worksheets to complete if you want to embed the learning.
The allure of learning from world-class sports people is obviously what sells the programme, and I have to say the insights are worth it – at least from my perspective given my aforementioned interests.
So what did I get from it?
A lot of the early days were standard coaching stuff about goal-setting. That doesn’t make them any less valuable, and for many people they’d have been exceptionally useful, but for me it was going over old ground to a degree. Interesting stuff, but not new. There were insights about envisioning your “World Cup moment” and how you can break down this vision into short and long term goals before fully defining what it is you want to achieve.
This process was quite helpful as at that time I was reflecting quite a lot about what I wanted from my life and career and being prompted to go through this thought process did help me get a lot of clarity about what I wanted in the future and some of the steps I needed to take to get there.
It was also useful to get a reminder of some simple concepts like finding three things you do each day that move you towards your goal, and making sure you do those things first whilst you have more energy, and don’t waste the day doing things that don’t move you towards those goals.
Something new AND interesting was the idea of process goals, which I found a great concept to explore – however I found I could apply it far more easily to my triathlon training and other sports than I could my work in business.
There were several insights looking at the concept of Mental Toughness. The speakers had a firm belief that it isn’t something innate to us that we are born with, but it is something that is shaped by experience and is therefore a skillset that can be developed. I’ve found this to be true with my own experiences, and I know that some of the things I’ve experienced in recent times would have broken me in the past, but I’ve somehow become tougher.
A few speakers talked about making mistakes and learning from them, something I covered briefly in my last blog. Those with Mental Toughness need to be able to start again, rebuild and acknowledge the factors that made them less successful first time round. They also need to be able to make sacrifices in order to achieve their goals, and this really did make me think. Over my career I’ve made sacrifices in order to be successful, but they haven’t always worked out – and this made me think that some of the choices I’ve made in the past weren’t the right ones, and made me resolve to make better ones next time, and to rebuild accordingly.
A speaker said that true Mental Toughness is about being comfortable with who you are, being humble but also being agile, being brave and knowing when to change direction. Hearing this really made me think.
As I mentioned in the last blog, I really loved the idea of presenting successive drafts of one’s own performance and its something I’ve really taken to heart. I’m 41 now, and although I’m much better at everything than I was aged 21 or 31, I also fully expect to be even better by age 51 and 61. Just watch me. Likewise, I talked briefly about isolating any setbacks in their true context, and that’s also something that’s really helped me.
The programme encouraged me to think about what I’m proud of – and I came up with a decent sized list. It encouraged me to have confidence in my own ability, something that has been lacking sometimes.
We then looked at what champions do that is different from those who are simply good. One factor was being accountable for your own performance, whether that’s good or bad. I reckon I’m good at that in sport, and am improving at that in business too. But a key factor was champions accepting a penalty for not achieving their targets, and that’s something I’ve never considered – but am doing now…
Champions also surround themselves with high performing individuals who can give them feedback and hold them to account. This is really similar to Ian Pettigrew’s concept of a Personal Board of Directors which I’ve shared previously, and is something I’ve tinkered with on occasion but never really put into practice – but I need to…I just need to decide who my Top 5 are. I tried getting some feedback from people as the programme suggested, but most of those I asked really struggled to give me any.
Another couple of speakers looked at the concept of wellbeing – something I’ve blogged about a few times. They spoke about being able to switch off and disconnect from work in order to focus on something else important, and vice versa – and these are things I’ve done well in the past. Its important to schedule downtime into my life and to schedule other things like exercise, family time and of course work. This programme also made me realise that I rarely seem to get a good nights sleep BUT that doesn’t seem to be affecting my performance – so how good could I be if I did get a good nights sleep regularly?
Some other useful simple insights were about the importance of preparation. I used to remember something in my teaching days that if you were short of time and had a choice of doing lesson preparation or marking students work, you should always choose preparation every time. There was more to it than that but I’ve carried that forward into every aspect of my life and work – I always prepare well, it builds confidence and puts deposits into my confidence bank account, and leads to greater results. Similarly, the importance of positive self-talk is not new but the insights gave me some ideas how to use that to structure preparation for important meetings and events, and how to use fear as a motivator.
There were a few speakers talking about the power of visualisation and pre-match preparation, something I do on occasion and it does produce better results, but I only tend to do in sporting situations and it then baffled me why I’ve never done it in a business situation. So, I promptly did so – and got an amazing result which I’ll talk about in due course.
The programme finished by asking us to network and connect with those who we consider the very best in our field, and to talk to them about the secrets of their success. I’m encouraged by this and will seek these people out. If all of a sudden I start asking you questions, you know I consider you one of the very best in your field…
The final insight from the programme asked me to reflect on what are the two or three things I’m currently doing that are delivering the greatest success for me – a version of the Pareto Principle I suppose. I know what these things are now. I know when and where I get a chance to do them, and I know when and where I don’t. Its up to me what happens about that though.
So the programme is finished and I’ve come away from it with a mass of thoughts, ideas and practical tips, many of which I’ve already begun to put into practice and have begun to generate some interesting and really positive results.
There’s more insights now available to me for a period of time and I’ll be accessing these as soon as I’m able. I will be able to use all of them in my day to day work with other people, and to help me become even more effective at the various things I do.
I’d like to thank Jeremy for inviting me onto this programme and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in applying the principles of world-class sporting performance into the business world.
About the author – Gary Cookson
Gary is HR Director at one of the leading FE Colleges in the North West. He began the role in February 2016, having spent a year doing HR/OD integration work at a new housing group. Prior to this Gary was Head of HR & OD at Golden Gates Housing Trust for 11 years and he also have experience of working again in Further Education, a call centre, a national charity and an international pharmaceuticals company. Prior to working in HR Gary qualified as a secondary school teacher (where he taught History).
A Fellow if The Learning & Performance Institute and a CIPD Chartered Fellow, a qualified coach and mediator, distance learning tutor for the CIH and CIPD, and more besides.
Outside work, Gary is a keen sportsman – competing in triathlons regularly but also having led and managed some representative sports teams – a father to three lovely children, and husband of a long-suffering wife.