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By MYOB Social Media Leader James Curnow
August 22, 2019
Appearing at Partner Connect 2019 Day Two, the Emergent CEO offered her advice on how business leaders can embrace change and set course for a more successful tomorrow.
Holly Ransom knows a thing or two about managing change in life and in business.
As the chief executive of Emergent, a company specialising in disruptive strategy and building the capacity of leaders to execute change, Ransom has developed her career along the themes of innovation and disruption.
Named one of Australia’s ‘100 Most Influential Women’ by the Australian Financial Review, Ransom has delivered a Peace Charter to the Dalai Lama, interviewed Barack Obama on stage and was Sir Richard Branson’s nominee for Wired Magazine’s ‘Smart List’ of Future Game Changers to watch in 2017.
To say that Ransom has some wisdom to share on the topic of change management is a severe understatement, which is why the attendees at MYOB Partner Connect 2019 were eager to hear her keynote presentation on the subject.
Ransom began her presentation by highlighting the challenge presented by a world undergoing significant disruption.
“In 1898, the US Patent Office came out and said that everything that could be invented, had been invented.
“Which is effectively like saying: ‘Hey everybody, put down your tools, let’s go to the pub – humankind has peaked.”
Ransom asked the audience to contrast that statement against all the change and innovation they’ve witnessed in their lives over just the past 18 months.
“We can’t afford complacency,” she said. “We can’t afford US Patent Office mentality to creep in.”
Things are moving faster and people are expecting brands to move with the same speed, and that has real impacts for things like customer response times, as just one example.
Beyond the technological rate of change, Ransom also highlighted the intergenerational change that’s occurring as another factor to consider.
“We have an ageing population, and that’s an important conversation, but we also need to look at the equation with two lenses,” she said.
“By 2016 the millennial cohort became the largest generation in the Australian workforce.
“Right now, they’re around 37 percent, and by 2025, they’ll be two-thirds of the Australian workforce.”
According to Ransom – a millennial herself – this generation wants to work differently. They’re also generally less trusting.
It’s the issue of trust that brought Ransom to her final point about the forces of disruption and change in our transformative world.
Here she cites the Edelman Trust Barometer, which shows the deterioration of consumer trust in brands, politics and media over time.
“This is effectively the consciousness that this generation has grown up with.
“That means we have to work harder to ensure that they can feel they can trust us.”
As the world has changed, so are the ways we approach work, and Ransom is eyeing a significant paradigm shift in our approach.
“The definition of insanity is thinking we can keep doing the same thing, when everything is changing, and think we can get a different result.
“How can we get a different result?
“I want to identify the building blocks of change – and that is habits.”
Ransom believes the small, repetitive behaviours that people perform on a daily basis are a far more powerful force for change than any quick fix.
“Relative to our goals and aspirations, and the way the world is changing, are our habits still serving the results we’re in pursuit of or do we have to change it up?”
For some, the change is already here and it’s evident in the way people are approaching how they think about their work.
“We’re moving out of an old paradigm into a new paradigm,” said Ransom.
“There’s a model for the way we worked in the industrial age that is broken relative to the way the world is demanding we work in 2019.”
“How do we start seeing life as a series of sprints?”
People are talking about ‘healthy stress’ versus ‘unhealthy stress’, ‘productive downtime’, ‘change fatigue’ and more as we struggle to come to terms with how we can adapt to a rapidly changing business environment.
It’s at this point that the practical nature of Ransom’s advice came to the fore, as she lay out a method for leveraging change.
The method relies on a reframing of what the way we think of fears in our lives.
“Something’s happened to the word ‘fear’ in our culture,” Ransom said.
“It’s become sensationalised, which means we have become desensitised to how it can turn up in daily life,” she said.
Ransom described fear as also being the many actions and activities people tend to shy away from in their day to day existence, preferring to exist within their comfort zone instead.
The area outside of a person’s comfort zone is their “courage zone” — an area populated by the habits we could (and should pursue), but tend not to.
“Between comfort and courage is the red line of resistance – the thing I want everyone to think about.”
The entire model Ransom describes as the “strength wheelhouse”, which she believes can act as a good model for planning behavioural growth.
“The best part about this is the amazing reward for effort you receive when you do the think you’re afraid of – your comfort zone expands.
“It’s just like being in the gym building a muscle – as your comfort zone expands, so situations you weren’t comfortable with before suddenly become easier.”
But, as Ransom pointed out, there’s no point going after big behavioural shifts all at once.
Instead, business owners and entrepreneurs should consider a more incremental approach.
“You’ve heard of Minimum Viable Product? I’d like to propose Minimum Viable Habits as a model for how we can go about dealing with change in our life and work,” said Ransom.
It’s a method that’s designed to work for our modern, busy lifestyles.
If workers are busy with their day-to-day, trying to enact large change quickly is more likely to fail.
Instead, Ransom suggests the “24-7-1” approach.
“The idea is that, within 24 hours of hearing this information, you need to take an initial bite-sized action step.
“The action is meant to be so small that it’s inexcusable you didn’t get it done in 24 hours.”
She recommends that step might be as simple as drawing up your own strength wheelhouse with all the things that are within your comfort zone and all the things you’d like to achieve that lie in your courage zone.
“Then, within seven days, you take a bigger step again.
“Within one month you’ve got to take a bigger action step again.”
This is Ransom’s blueprint for building minimum viable habits; something she says can be just as useful for teams as it for individuals, in work or life in general.
“Once you’ve gone through 24-7-1 once, then you roll it forward into a whole new one.
“And that’s because the single greatest ally we’ve got in trying for change is momentum.”
So, what would your strength wheelhouse and 24-7-1 action plan look like today?
By Holly Ransom, 2019
Encryption. Extremist social media content. Driverless cars. Blockchain. Drones. Facial recognition. Cybersecurity. AI. Fake news. The list of technology issues confronting our society is mind-boggling, and only growing in number and complexity by the day.
We’re navigating a new world order… and it requires a skilful balancing act.
On one hand, as almost goes without saying, the impact of technology is staggering, both in terms of growth momentum and potential upside; business spending on AI alone jumped 54% in 2018 and by 2030 could bump up the global GDP by $15.7 trillion, representing a 14% increase. In many ways, AI is becoming the next space race, with countries around the world announcing their strategies for global dominance. In 2017, China launched its New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan, with a catalytic $30B investment, a strategy aimed at claiming global leadership in AI by 2030. When I interviewed the United Arab Emirate’s AI Minister (which is a world-first portfolio), Omar Sultan Al Olama last year, he was fresh from announcing a 50-year AI strategy for the UAE that by 2030 alone is predicted to contribute $96 billion to the UAE economy (12.6% of their GDP). Leaders in nation’s making assertive AI plays will tell you that economic upside is not only worth playing for, in the face of automation and predicted wide-spread job loss, but some kind of coordinated AI strategy and investment is also a compulsory entry ticket to the 21st century’s main game.
And for all the fearmongering surrounding what the rise of technology means for people and jobs (‘Terminator’-style visions of a robot uprising, anyone?), which I’ll touch on in a moment, there’s a strong case for optimism: tech capability + human capability (a combination often referred to as augmentation) provides us with the opportunity to be faster, smarter and better problem-solvers.
An app a day keeps the doctor away
An example of this new problem-solving capability is healthcare AI, expected to receive a stunning $6.6 billion in total public and private sector investment by 2021. As our population grows and ages, AI will likely be an essential component of how we meet the challenge of the projected ballooning of our healthcare costs. It’s predicted that top AI applications may result in annual savings of $150 billion by 2026. But it’s not just about cost saving, it’s about effectiveness and reach: AI can already diagnose skin cancer more accurately than humans, provide alternative service to the 20% of clinical demands that currently go unmet (because our doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals are maxed out!) and offers a means of providing medical care and health support services to some of our most remote communities.
Automation of a nation?
However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. History has shown us with past industrial revolutions, that we will navigate a period of significant disruption as this next wave of innovation pervades every aspect of our lives. The challenge of workforce automation is real and significant. Current forecasts suggest 50% of jobs will be obsolete over the course of the next decade or so (the timeline shifts depending on which forecast you read) and this will be one of the greatest large-scale economic challenges our world has faced. Governments are grappling with how to train (and retrain) their populations and each of us is crossing our (yet to be automated) fingers that we’ll be in that 50% whose jobs aren’t lost. This is a significant challenge that shouldn’t be underplayed, particularly given the way the ‘digital divide’ (a term used to reference the wide variation in digital skill levels) is likely to play out socioeconomically. However, it’s worth noting that this isn’t a zero sum game- new jobs will be created in this next wave of disruption, so to paint it (as often reported) as a net ‘loss of jobs’ glosses over some of the complexity of the changing labour force dynamic. In the Harnessing Revolution report, Accenture argued that fewer jobs will be lost if people are able to reallocate their skills to tasks that require more “human skills” such as complex analysis and social/emotional intelligence. They went as far as to say that if this strategy were properly implemented, the UK would be able to reduce the share of jobs at risk of being fully automated to less than six percent, Germany to ten percent and the US to four percent by the year 2035. So, in essence, if we get smart about how we upskill and reskill, we have the ability to make our economic transition smoother.
Governance – all on board
As Dr Melvin Kransberg, a Technology History Professor at Georgia Institute of Technology, said in a 1985 address:
“Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.”
What Kranzberg identifies is that the way technology interacts with the social ecology will frequently have environmental, social, and human consequences that go far beyond the immediate purposes of the technical devices and practices themselves. Further, that same tech can have radically different results and consequences when introduced into different contexts or under different circumstances.
This is the reality we’ve increasingly been awakening to in the last 18 months as the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica matter snowballed into a much broader conversation about the ethical frameworks governing how the big tech companies operate and how they should be governed. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg originally called for the government to take a hands-off approach, before making an about-turn to say that there was a need for government to step in and provide direction. Last year, It’s also important to acknowledge that these aren’t issues on the horizon, we’re already experiencing the effects, to point to just one data point:
In Australia alone, the annual direct cost associated with cybersecurity incidents to Australian businesses is $29 billion per annum, the equivalent of almost 2% (1.9%) of Australia’s GDP.
And that is just the tip of the digital, physical and political security iceberg we need to be considering as AI rapidly evolves the risk landscape for individuals, organisations and nations. Wherever you sit on the spectrum between optimist and pessimist, the (STEAM) train has left the station and it is a false binary to think our choice is whether or not we get onboard… that’s like suggesting there’s a choice between opportunity and obsolescence. The real question is whether we choose to step into the driver’s seat and take control, and how we choose to navigate change.
By Emily Pidgeon | CEO Magazine,09 MAY 2019 – 09:12 AM
“There’s not one single sector in Australia right now, in 2019, where men and women share leadership equally.”
The 50/50 by 2030 Foundation Director was among nine leading women who took home an award at the annual Australian event.
“There’s not one single sector in Australia right now, in 2019, where men and women share leadership equally,” – Virginia Haussegger
Pioneering surgeon and obstetrician Dr Catherine Hamlin AC, elite athlete Samantha Kerr, Galiwin’ku Women’s Space Inc Founder and Chair Bettina Danganbarr, Brave Foundation CEO Bernadette Black, University of South Australia Deputy Vice Chancellor Tanya Monro, Australian Greens co-deputy leader Senator Larissa Waters and Emergent CEO Holly Ransom achieved the 2019 accolades for their respective states and territories.
“It’s wonderful to be included in a gallery of such formidable, impressive and inspiring women,” Haussegger told The CEO Magazine. “I love reading and hearing other women’s stories, and not necessarily the success stories but just how they’ve done what they’ve done.”Previous
Waters, who made headlines in 2017 for breastfeeding her daughter while passing a motion in parliament, told The CEO Magazine it’s important to celebrate the outstanding women creating a better world.
“I firmly believe that you can’t be what you can’t see,” she says. “At the moment, the parliament is pale, male and stale and we need more women in there, which will not just create a more diverse political arena but also go a long way to fixing gender equity issues in other areas of our lives.”
Haussegger, who won the Australian Capital Territory award, said it was great to step back and take a moment to appreciate the merit of women’s work, which often goes unvalued.
“I think the role of awards such as this can’t be understated when it comes to aspiring younger women,” Haussegger says. “It’s terrific; in fact, very encouraging to see women come together to share stories, hear from other women, and share research tips and strategies for not only advancing in the workplace but for also encouraging others to aspire to leadership positions and step up.”
As the awards increase visibility and momentum for Australian women to receive equitable access to leadership positions across all industries, Haussegger, who was the 2019 ACT Australian of the Year, works to educate the nation on gender equality.
“I firmly believe that you can’t be what you can’t see,” – Larissa Waters
The award-winning former journalist says, according to the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation’s 2018 study, on gender equality attitudes four out of five people believe gender equality is still a problem in Australia.
“Gender equality should be about amazing men and women and the diversity of different gender traits working together,” Haussegger says. “We’ve made very small pockets of progress.
“Awards like this give people the opportunity to talk about why an award is being given and why the issue itself is important.”
Dozens of trailblazing women have been recognised by the prestigious award including Ita Buttrose AO OBE, Michelle Bridges, Layne Beachley AO and Professor Gillian Triggs.
Those of you who know me well, or who’ve seen me present, will know I’m obsessed with habits. It fascinates me that (depending on what habit study you read) between 30-40% of our daily activity is estimated to be habitual, and yet we have a tendency to overlook the marginal gains that are available to us by merely tweaking our repeated behaviour. Ultimately, success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations, so if we can work out how to make small changes and set them on autopilot, we can dramatically improve our results.
Every year, I like to try and get off the grid after Christmas to take stock of the year that was and plan for the year ahead. I review not just how I went relative to my goals but also reflect on how good a job I did at sticking to my ‘cornerstone habits’- the core couple of behaviours I was focused on maintaining a consistency with throughout the year. Then, as I turn my mind to my goals and aspirations for the year ahead, I ask myself the question ‘do my habits still serve my objectives?’
This year, my annual reflection was aided by a brilliant Christmas gift from my fellow personal development junkie, Layne Beachley (Thanks, Layne!), in the form of New York Times bestselling book Atomic Habits by James Clear. Clear breaks down the four components of habits (Cues-> Cravings -> Responses -> Rewards) and offers up a formula for how we can tweak each stage to cement new positive habits and banish bad ones. Clear defines an ‘atomic habit’ as a regular practice or routine that is not only small and easy to do but is also the source of incredible power; a component of the system of compound growth. At a high level, he talks about how we need to make the cues for positive habits simple, the cravings attractive, the responses easy and the rewards satisfying.
I devoured this book in a single sitting and highly recommend it to anyone who has a self-improvement focus or is stretching themselves in new ways in 2019. There were a couple of standout points that have given me a fresh perspective and/or a new approach to take into 2019 that I thought I’d share with you:
Clear suggests that when seeking to form effective habits we need to begin with an understanding of the type of person we want to be and then prove or reinforce that identity to ourselves with small wins. He argues that habits are not about ‘having’ they are about ‘becoming,’ so instead of setting a goal of running a marathon, you’d set out to become a runner. In essence, he contends that in order to change our habits we’ve got to change our identity and for as long as we don’t, no matter how much rational sense a habit change makes if it’s not identity-consistent we will fail to put them into action.
As a starting point, Clear suggests we ask yourself, “Who is the type of person that could get the outcome I want?” and then consider all your actions as a vote for the type of person you wish to become.
I started my 2019 planning from a really different place- instead of focusing (like I normally would) on what I wanted to achieve, I asked myself ‘who do I want to become? How do I want to show up?’ It led to a divergent line of self-inquiry to my usual outcome-focused goal-setting approach, and the introspection prompted me to reset my values and develop a new self-talk mantra for 2019.
Ouch. This one hit me right between the eyes! On reflection, I think my systems had a lot of room for improvement in 2018!
Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results. I particularly loved this comment from Clear:
“The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game. True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. It’s not about any single accomplishment. It is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement.”
I’m building in better systems! Including:
Importantly, I’m being kinder to myself in 2019… I’m so self-competitive that the idea of doing something unbroken for 365 days runs the risk of becoming all-consuming! So instead, I’m holding the concept of ‘never break the chain’ in tension with the idea of ‘never miss twice’- it’s inevitable that life will get in the way of some of these habits (and sometimes in order to be open to possibilities that’s precisely what should happen!) so my focus is not on never missing but never missing twice.
Habit formation is the process by which a behaviour becomes progressively more automatic through repetition, so the amount of time you have been performing a habit is not as significant as the number of times you have completed it. Therefore, our focus needs to be on repeating our habits for as long as it takes to make them automatic.
Part of where we undo ourselves here (or at least I certainly do!) is by being too ambitious in how I chunk down my goals into habits, meaning I end up asking too much of myself from the outset to give myself much of a shot at building repetition to a point where I’ve got the habit on autopilot. For example, if I had a goal of becoming an author in 2019 and was trying to build a habit of writing consistently, previously I’d likely kick off January 1 by attempting to establish a pattern of writing 5000 words every day. Power to the people who can pull that off but for most of us that’s like trying to drink from a fire hydrant- it’s overwhelming, exhausting and unlikely to leave you excited at the prospect of doing it all over again tomorrow. Instead, I would be better to start by writing a single sentence a day for a week, and when that became easy, we could progress to a paragraph or a page and so on.
Clear makes the point that every habit can be boiled down to a two-minute version, and that’s where we should start (i.e., writing the sentence, not the 5000 words!). The sooner that becomes easy for us to repeat the sooner we can take it to the next level, but we give ourselves the highest likelihood of success if we build reps first vs. loading up the weight.
I’ve started my habit tracker on micro-habits this year- i.e., the 2-minute version of what I’m seeking to make an automatic routine. At the end of every month I’m going to reflect on whether I’ve got enough reps in to be able to increase the habit demand or whether I need to work at it a little longer.
Part of what I love about habits and systems is they’re not a ‘destination’ they’re a continual process, and ones which have an innumerate number of approaches and ideas. While I really resonated with some of James Clear’s ideas and perspectives, I’d love to hear about the approach you take to entrenching good habits and any tips you might have.
I also hope you might be able to keep me accountable for one of my 2019 goals: regularly sharing my thoughts and ideas online (via LinkedIn and other mediums). I’m committing to a habit of writing a LinkedIn blog monthly, and I’d love to know what sort of content would be of most significant interest to you.
Wishing you a Happy New Year and all the best with whoever you’re seeking to become in 2019.
When I was nineteen years old, my mentor Virgil shared a line that proved to be a lightbulb moment for me: “How long does it take to learn from someone’s lifetime of experience?”
In a flash, learning and development became clear for me- I didn’t have to wait for a special invitation to join an esteemed leadership development program or to be recognised for a structured mentoring initiative… Learning was entirely within my grasp and was utterly my own responsibility.
I promised myself there and then I would actively cultivate coffee conversations with people who I admired, respected and aspired to learn from – weekly. Nearly 10 years on, I don’t think I’ve missed a single coffee exchange, and it’s probably been the single greatest habit I’ve built when it comes to my own personal growth (there are worse vices than caffeine and learning!).
Emboldened by the impact these conversations had on my own life, I decided to start a podcast to share the incredible lessons, insights and stories offered by people I’m fortunate to meet, know and call my mentors and friends. Now 65 episodes in, we’ve featured everyone from an 8-time world champion surfer to a 7th generation kung-fu master, a navy commander, ASX 100 and Fortune 500 CEOs, adventurers, Olympic gold-medallists, and a symphony orchestra conductor. We had close to an equal gender split (60/40 female:male), and guests in their late 70s to early 20s. I intentionally did my best to curate an eclectic mix of cultural backgrounds, industries, religions and sexual orientations.
My objectives for the podcast seemed simple enough at the time:
1) To paint the archetype of the ‘changemaker’ as someone more tangible, closer to you and to me. My hope was listeners would be inspired to take on the idea of ‘being the change’ they want to see in the world.
2) To crack open the “formula” for change, making it less Colonel’s ’11 secret herbs and spices’ and more ‘open source’ intelligence. My guests had to be pragmatists- deeply reflective, honest and candid in sharing their experience to empower listeners to shift from inspiration to implementation.
3) To question answers rather than answer questions. We talk a lot about cognitive diversity in the world right now but recording this podcast made me realise how rarely we’re truly exposed to divergent thinking unless we intentionally facilitate it.
I’ve been humbled by the reactions to the podcast from all around the world, many of which have come from the phenomenal Linkedin network- thank you. You’ve told me how my podcast with Alisa Camplin got you through your first half marathon and how Ros Savage inspired you to go climb a mountain. How you’re a different father to your daughter after listening to my podcast with Liz Broderick (this conversation in Calgary moved me to tears). Or how Mandy Rennehan got you ‘woke’ on diversity and inclusion, how Holly Kramer and Ron Gauci made the communication and engagement side of organisational change ‘understandable and doable’ for the first time. And how Rob Jones’ insights helped you get through a tunnel you were struggling to see a light at the end of.
You told me over and over again how valuable you found guests’ insights for your personal and professional goals. Thanks to all who listened, shared and particularly those who took the time to provide feedback- I had no idea how to produce a podcast when I started but I believed vehemently in the quality of the conversations. Every time I have heard about the effect these have had on someone it lights me up. A big thanks to Sydney Morning Herald for giving the podcast a shout-out in the ‘top business podcasts’ list too!
To wrap up season one, and before I launch the new season, I’d love to share with you a few titbits from our top-rating podcasts:
Dom is the guru on all things collaboration, team-work, innovation and future-of-work (his official title is Head of R&D and Work Futurist at Atlassian) and listeners loved him for both his incredibly practical advice and his no-BS, entertaining communication style. If you’re dealing with establishing an internal culture of innovation, thinking through what ‘lived’ workplace diversity feels like (as opposed to what ‘talked’ d&I looks like) and how to achieve effective collaboration- Dom’s podcast is for you. One of my favourite quotes comes from Dom’s reflection around intentional learning:
“I have this mental model I do every quarter. It’s my three by three. My three across are time horizon one, time horizon two, and time horizon three, and my three along the side are me, my team, and Atlassian as an organization, and I map out my quarter. What are the activities I’m going to do and where am I investing? So, I’ve always got some things top right. They are for my team, or for Atlassian, and they’re time horizon three, they’re going to pay off in a year. They’re the long term outcome bets. Then there’s the bottom left hand corner. They’re the things for me for today. They’re very transactional. What I do is, notionally, when I’m shifting boxes, I change the way I act. So, for the transactional stuff, it’s scrappy, it’s quick, do it, move on. My main goal with the transactional stuff is how can I prevent it occurring again? How can I automate it and make it go away? Because it’s not massively valuable. The problem with the top right box is it’s highly speculative, but it also means a completely different mindset. When I go to events or function where I’m top right, what I do is say to myself, “I need to give myself equal parts consumption and equal parts reflection.” Now, way too many leaders, in my experience, see that as a waste, because there’s no work being produced, but, if I don’t give my brain and my heart and my intuition time to consume that, then it’s just surface level. It’s not made it inside, and so, if I’m going to invest 24 hours in the event, there’s no harm investing 24 hours in consuming from that event. Makes complete sense.”
Sam is a truly exceptional systems-thinker and has pioneered change across business, civil society and the public sector throughout her career. A name synonymous with diversity and inclusion in Australia, Sams’ comments around the role of cultural institutions and, particularly, sport in driving social progress really hit a chord with listeners. Sam was the first female AFL Commissioner and shared candidly her experiences and lessons influencing change in the ‘boys club’. I spent a lot of time reflecting on the ideas Sam shared, particularly her comments around how being angry, in her experience, limits the effectiveness of your advocacy. I loved her observation that sport is the ‘silent social worker’ and an incredibly powerful lever for change. I cannot recommend this conversation highly enough for leaders of organisation and social change. One of my favourite remarks Sam made was (reflecting on the challenges of driving change):
“I think the one I still struggle with is ensuring that I understand all the multiple stakeholders affected by the change that I want to be part of, really understanding where their perspectives are and how to engage and show respect whilst pushing hard for that change. And it takes an enormous amount of … I think you’ve got to be really quite patient and have good self control and engage respectfully. So for me, that remains … And also, I think the thing I’ve learned on the way, Holly, and I’m learning to this very day, is you make a big mistake if you think you’ve suddenly got the whole thing sorted and you understand it be moving part… active listening as part of change is probably the thing that I come back … And it’s hard for any of us because when you want things to get better, whatever your particular field is, there is a desire to get it done now and speed and maybe not understand the damage you cause on the way through.”
I wasn’t at all surprised by the popularity of this episode. Sifu’s voice is like hot chocolate and his insights around mindfulness – how to actually achieve being present in the moment and what it takes to unlock that next level of your performance potential – are truly masterful. Sifu is a high-performance coach of military special forces, secret service, SWAT teams, and over 100 law enforcement agencies across the globe. He’s a 23rd generation Tai Chi master! This podcast got me ‘mind boxing’, catalysed a new morning routine (which has definitely improved my start to the day!) and given me a whole different frame to understand training to perform under pressure. One of my favourite quotes comes from Sifu’s discussion of stress and peak performance:
“There’s a saying that says that when stress hits you, you resort to a diminished state…, you only have 10% of your capabilities actually available. So you fall to that percentage. So instead of training, training bigger, stronger, faster, that idea, and just increasing your ability and only accessing 10%, my question is, how do we access more? And train the less of that idea? When we can start to do that we get a balance. Now I’m not saying don’t train and work out, be strong and healthy, that’s important because the body’s the vehicle. But the mind, the mind is the engine. The mind is the general. We say the mind is the general, and the body and emotions are the battle. The breath is the strategy, and the chi in your energy are your soldiers.”
This podcast received some of the most powerful and emotional responses of the whole season. Rob was a combat engineer in the US Army when an IED blew up underneath him, taking both his legs. Unwaveringly optimistic and determined to make a difference to the lives of others, Rob has cycled across America, run 31 marathons in 31 days and won an Olympic bronze medal all the while raising funds for veterans’ charities. If you want a conversation you won’t ever forget listening to, you’ve got to listen to Rob. I’ve probably reflected on this podcast 50 times since listening because of the way Rob challenged me to think differently about the way we treat/help/support people who are going through struggle in order to ensure we enable them to be stronger out the other side. Rob frames stress as being akin to a heavy weight on the barbell at the gym and talks about how we have choice as to whether we let that weight come down or we use it to build strength. Acknowledging that sometimes the weight feels overwhelming, Rob talks about support should look like a “spotter”:
“Sometimes, you do need help. Sometimes the weight’s a little bit too much at first, so you need somebody to come in and spot you. You don’t want them to lift the whole weight themselves for you. Let’s say you’re doing a lift and you have a spotter and you’re not quite being able to lift it. What do they do? They don’t just rip it up. They do the finger, right? They do the one finger and they say, “It’s all you. It’s all you. It’s all you.” Maybe sometimes that’s what you need. You might need somebody to point you in the right direction or give you that leg up, but it really is just trying to view your situation from a bird’s eye view and maybe even imagine somebody else is in the situation trying to figure out what you would advise somebody to do in that situation.”