Andrew’s Blog: 16kg’s That Changed My Life

My entire life has changed because of 16kg. This weight I am referring to is maybe not what you’d expect. It is not the weight I lost giving me the body I had always dreamed of (this aim is problematic for many reasons, but we will get to that later). It is not the combined weight of my children at certain ages. 16kg is not the amount of steak you have to eat to have your photo taken and placed on the “mega meat challenge” at my local eatery. It is the weight of my kettlebell, and that kettlebell has entirely changed my personal and business life. You can’t buy happiness. But you can buy a kettlebell, and for me, it is the same thing. 

Welcome to my blog!.

I’m an active person. Sometimes too active. I have pushed my body to its limits and asked it to do more than it is able. I have set myself unrealistic goals, given myself too little recovery time and done myself severe damage. When we think of being unhealthy, we often think of 3 of the seven deadly sins; gluttony, sloth, and greed. 

This seems to feed into this idea that the worst thing we can do is sit down and consume, and that’s sometimes true. However, it is important to acknowledge that putting yourself through too much is equally damaging. It is all harmful. I have managed to find a way to set myself regular, achievable goals, and it has dramatically changed my life. I want to share with you the secret. 

As business leaders, we are naturally target driven. We feel in competition with everyone, sometimes even the people in our team. I have certainly stayed later than everyone else, got in earlier than everyone else and asked more of myself than I would of anyone in my team. I told myself it was because I was the leader, the example, the person in charge. However, over time, I realised it was because I was trying to push myself too far. This realisation, combined with my family history of working to an early grave, felt like I had been struck by lightning. The way I was behaving was not long term. I couldn’t keep it up, and so I had to make changes to improve my life. The thing that improved my life was the kettlebell. And the kettlebell is not the tiny mechanism my wife rings when she wants a coffee, but the 16kg weight that has changed my life. 

I started to use the kettlebell in 2012, but with minimal strategy until I met StrongFirst Master Instructor Pavel Macek. Pavel uses the kettlebell daily. He used it to improve his flexibility, strength and stamina and said I could do the same. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “This will change you.”

First off, I didn’t believe him…I have grown up, as you have surrounded by the messages from companies that tell you you need to buy and keep buying things to make you happy, so the thought that I could get everything I needed from one purchase and hard work didn’t ring true. How could I get everything I need from the kettlebell?.. 

The truth is businesses rely on you feeling “ you are not good enough”. And have created multi-billion pound industries that produce pills, clothing, equipment, dietary supplements, shakes, retreats and gyms to keep you buying things that will not give you what you need. What I needed was a kettlebell and a lot of patience. 

Once I bought a kettlebell and started using it, I did not look back. I did not need to spend time away from my family because I had to work out for an hour at the gym. During the lockdown, I swung it every day, and I didn’t spend my time desperately trying to navigate work, homelife and exercise in an attempt to “have it all”. I discovered that you could “have it all”. You just have to readjust what that looks like for you.

This blog aims to share with you how to live a balanced life in a complex world. And the world is only getting more difficult and challenging to navigate, which doesn’t mean we should stop trying to gain balance, but we might have to try harder. That’s another reason why I love the kettlebell. I have been training to become a kettlebell instructor—more on this in the next episode. I love the simplicity. I love that all you need is a 16kg kettlebell to start, and you can engage in physical and mental work that will benefit your every day, every day.

There is a phenomenon called the “what the hell” effect. The “what the hell” is not, for anyone doubting the inflexion, an aggressive “hey, I’m walking here!” type of thing you might hear from a character from a film set in New York. Nor is it a “ahhhh, it’s just another bottle of wine, you only live once what the hell”. It is called the “what the hell” effect because it comes from working on something that you are surprised to find benefits something else. Like when you watch The Great British Bake Off, and you suddenly start asking questions at weddings like “is this Swiss or Italian meringue?” and everyone is very impressed with you, like that.

With the kettlebell, my “what the hell” effect came when I realised that doing my kettlebell practise regularly, because I had made it a part of my daily routine, had dramatically improved many other aspects of my life. The mental and physical differences were almost endless. I had better posture, I had more energy, I was able to dedicate proper, quality time to my family. I slept better, I had improved focus and was more motivated, I was better at hockey. But all that had changed was I stopped going to the gym and started working out, at home, with the kettlebell. What. The. Hell?

Who would have thought that simplifying things could improve your life? It is surprising, because like I’ve said before, it goes against the story we are told every day, that we need more to be happier, not less. You need more stuff, more experience, and as soon as you get it, you need the next thing to make you even better. So I stripped things back. I went from an avid gymmer to an at-home kettlebell practice-type person. Using the kettlebell daily has allowed me to gain perspective, taught me patience increased my energy and, most importantly, given me time back. 

As a business leader, I am sure you are struggling with finding balance. The truth is, we all are. The only thing more common than feeling like it is too much you have to do is believe that you are the only one struggling to cope. We need to start acknowledging the challenges and struggles we are facing and look to make things simpler. 

At the risk of sounding older than I am, none of us is getting any younger. Exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, but it doesn’t mean stretching yourself as thin as you can and then eventually snapping. Exercise should mean having something that you enjoy, that builds strength, not just muscle, and that allows you time to be you. 

I am inviting you to think about letting go of your ego. Let go of the high pressures that surround you in daily life and simplify. 

I was reluctant to give something new a go, so I know how you might be feeling. But I am asking you to give it a try, to let go of ego and competition and find something that will benefit your body, mind, work and soul. I have found the 16kg does that. 

Give it a go. What the hell? 

P.s. Check out my Ten Daily Habits Here 

Andrew’s Blog: Face Your Demons

Often I find that when I hear a voice telling me I can’t do something, it is my own. Worse still, I often find that I am the only one who can hear it.

I used to find wherever I went; my demons accompanied me. So much so in fact that I am surprised they didn’t insist on me purchasing them a plane seat when I was travelling. Maybe they were concerned for my finances? What they were not concerned about was my mental health. 

When it came to my work, my demons filled me with doubts, fears and insecurities so regularly that I might as well have put them on the payroll. My demons were persistent. They worked round the clock, evenings and weekends, with the enthusiasm that you could only dream of finding in a colleague. My demons were both incredibly loud and invisible, like an angry ghost. In this article, I am going to be talking about facing our demons. 

In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed his nation as the 32nd President of the United States of America and said, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”

What Franklin D. Roosevelt didn’t know at the time was that he would soon have to lead his country into a World War and die in office. If he knew how his presidency would end, he would have started it with those fateful words. “There is nothing to fear but fear itself”. 

Fear is an essential part of the human experience. Doubts are useful. The voice that said, “this seems scary, start running away.” was vital when the thing in question was a tiger. The little voice that says, “I’m not sure you can do this” was helpful when the “this” was fighting with a mammoth. The little voices that make us question an outcome before we do something are why you can all listen to this podcast today. Those little voices have allowed the human race and each individual that makes up the human race to survive.

Those voices can, however, stop us from doing something we really can achieve. We have been listening to our doubts and our demons to our detriment. Today we are going to start speaking back to them. 

Many of you reading will know why I do what I do. My journey to becoming the businessman, coach, husband, and father I am today has accompanied my demons. My father died far too young. He died too young because he was working too hard. Too much, too young. Both an incredible song and terrible reality.

My father had his demons, and when he passed away, I am sure some of my father’s demons started hanging out with me. There is no easy way to face them. There is certainly no easy way to deal with them, but nobody said it would be easy, as we have touched on before. Most things that are worth doing are difficult. The fears and doubts might be telling you to run away. I am telling you to stop and to face those demons that tell you; you can’t. 

 

If you have listened to the previous episodes of my podcast, you will know that there are four foundations. I believe you can build a successful business without sacrificing your health, well-being and personal relationships. The four foundations; do the work, no excuses, always ready and speak the truth are not without challenges, and if you are anything like me, they are not without a voice telling you your time is better spent elsewhere. My promise to you is I live and breathe these foundations. I have built my life upon them, but I have had to face my demons to do so. 

When it comes to doing the work, the first foundation, I have had to face demons that tell me I will end up like my father. The first step I had to take was to work out that I didn’t want to end up like my father, but I was on the same path as him. Once I had come to that realisation, I then had to summon the strength and confidence to put things that would allow me to change the direction I was going in. The demons that said I wasn’t strong enough to change had to be met with strength from me. 

I came across a quote by Joseph Campbell. “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” Your demons may tell you you can’t do something. Believe me, unless it is fighting a tiger, I reckon you can. Next time your demon tells you you can’t, I urge you to answer that you can. 

No excuses is the first foundation. An excuse is a demon’s press conference. It is the voice that says, “no, thank you and here is why…”. Again this is an instrumental quality when our lives and loved ones are endangered. It means we run away from fire, flood and creatures with sharp teeth. It is not good to be told by an inner voice that we might fail when we will not. If and when you hear that voice, I urge you to pause. Say, “thanks for showing up, thanks for trying to protect me, but I don’t need protecting this time.” and I hope that your demons, like mine, will be satisfied with this answer, even if it is only until the next time… Demons can be demonically persistent…

Being always ready is challenging when your demon is trying to prevent you from being so. Your demons might tell you that there is no point in being ready. It might tell you that there is no reason you should try and be ready. Again, at this point it is worth thanking them for the thought, but still aiming to be ready. I am certainly not the first person to say this and I’m paraphrasing the original quote, but here goes…” Courage is not the absence of fear. It is being scared and doing it anyway.”

The fourth and final foundation is speaking the truth. Telling the truth to yourself is difficult. Speaking the truth to your demons might feel almost impossible, and it is at this point, I would like to impart some wisdom I have learned from an incredible woman called Emily Eldredge. Your demons are trying to protect you, even now. They want your attention, and they want your love. When facing your demons, could you not do it with aggression? 

Fighting fire with fire is a phrase and not a good piece of advice. If you have ever accidentally left a tea towel on the hob when you’re cooking and, instead of getting a damp cloth, ran to get a box of matches, you will know this. 

When facing your demons, do not meet them with the fear they put in you. Meet your monsters with kindness. Thank them for their concern, but say you’re going to keep trying anyway. The success you seek in your business and in your life comes with its challenges; you don’t need to stand in your way. 

I think FDR was incorrect when he said, “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” There is plenty to fear, but we should keep trying, anyway. 

Andrew’s Blog: Ice Baths and Epiphanies

When something is working, we don’t often think about it. If the car starts smoothly, we don’t believe so: “Thanks, car, good work today. And thanks to all the engineers who have pushed this vehicle’s design forward and the workers who built the roads-”.

We do not, because we would be late for where we are going to and soon be thanking our clients for not doing business with us.

My point is When things are working, we don’t notice them. When things go wrong, we do. If the car doesn’t start, we are late and annoyed and probably swearing. If the lid of our takeaway coffee comes off as we rush to work, our fingers might get burned, and we might swear again. My point is that we carry around a lot of negative emotions with us and often far fewer positive ones. We notice when things go wrong, and we remember them. They affect us. They change our mood for the worse.

In the same way, a child carries their favourite soft toy with them everywhere they go, and we carry emotional baggage and daily stresses with such regularity that we might not even notice we are doing it. Until we are told to let go.

I’m going to talk to you now about a living legend. Wim Hof. Not only does his name sound like he should be a heroic character in a Terry Pratchett novel, but he is as brave and otherworldly as that, BUT he exists in real life. He is nicknamed the Iceman. Presumably, Iceman is the only name cooler than Wim Hof, so he was rightly awarded it. If you can’t tell, I’m a fan. If you’re not a fan, it is probably because you don’t know who he is. That’s about to change.

Wim Hof runs half marathons barefoot, on ice. Wim Hof set the world record for swimming 57.5 metres completely under the ice. Wim Hof climbed 5,700 metres up Mount Everest wearing just shoes and shorts. Wim Hof has also changed my life. He didn’t get an award or medal for it at the time, so I will give it at least some of the recognition he deserves by talking about it in my blog.

A couple of years ago, I sat in a bath full of iced water whilst on a Wim Hof Method workshop. During the few minutes I sat surrounded by cold iced water during the day, I had an epiphany. Although this sentence might, rightly, make you question what sort of person would do that to himself voluntarily, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Like many good ideas, it did not feel like a good idea at the time. It felt like one of the worst. Your body goes into shock. Your brain, which is sending messages to your body, is screaming at you to “Stop doing what you are doing, immediately” like a panicked parent when you come into the room and see your child spreading jam on the sofa…

Your brain is there to protect you but, as we have mentioned before in previous episodes, with far fewer tigers roaming wild on our streets and the increase in supermarkets, things are slightly less “high stakes” in modern life, but our brains have been slower to adapt in some ways.

When I was in the ice bath, my brain went into panic mode. It assumed I was dying, and in a way, it felt like I was. It was reacting in the way it has evolved to do, to get me out of danger. The danger, though, as I have said, was not a tiger or a stampede of mammoths, it was an ice bath.

My breath quickened and got shallow. I began to tense up and became unable to focus. I was struggling. The man who was leading the exercise, Jacub, was trying to get me to focus, to listen to him. He was telling me to breathe, he was telling me to concentrate, but I couldn’t. Then Jakob said two words that I not only heard but was able to respond to. He said, “Let go”.

These words were able to cut through the ice. Let go.

It was a true moment of clarity. Shockingly so. Like when you accidentally wake up late and open the curtains thinking it’s the first thing, but the sun is shining brightly because it is the middle of the day. Let go. Two words changed my life from that moment on. Because you only notice when things go wrong, I was carrying years of pressure, disappointments and fears without noticing. I had with me, without my knowledge and against my wishes, been carrying more emotional baggage than you can carry in both arms.

So I started to let go.

The good thing about the ice bath is that when you’re out of it, your brain immediately rewards you for not dying. It floods your body with endorphins that say “HOORAY, YOU MADE IT” and then “DON’T YOU EVER DO THAT TO ME AGAIN, I WAS WORRIED SICK.” In that same way that as a worried parent, I have both celebrated and scolded my daughter for coming back from a party late, but in one piece.

I had started to let go. Not entirely, not of everything, but I started to let go. Like a sugar cube in a hot tea (which both works as the perfect visual for how “letting go” felt and the perfect drink to have after submerging yourself in freezing cold water) I was able to dissolve, to melt.

A friend of mine always starts her day by doing what she calls “swallowing the frog”. No, she does not seek her morning meal from reptilian sources. What she means is she starts her working day by doing the worst job on the to-do list. She gets rid of the thing that is hanging over her. She swallows the frog and gets on with her day.

Since the ice bath all those years ago, I have started having a cold shower every single morning. I suffer now, so I don’t have to suffer later. I shock my body and my brain, so I am alert and present. It is almost impossible to think of anything else when your body is in cold water. Your brain is focused. Your mind is clear. This is cold. This is unpleasant. But it will not last forever, and it will not kill me.

I have a two minute cold shower every day, and my life has dramatically improved because of it. This is not a fad where you are convinced to financially invest in the latest “must-have”. It does not take up more than a couple of minutes of your day. You have 1438 minutes left in the day to spend them however you please, but two minutes in a cold shower can change your life.

I went back recently to submerge my body in iced water, and something amazing happened. In just a few years, in the same bath, with the same coach, Jakob, I submerged my body in iced water. The difference? My breathing remained the same. There was no panic; there was no sharp, shallow breathing. I had, it seemed, through daily practice, managed to make my body behave the way I wanted to. I didn’t see the growth until I was back in the ice bath, but I had moved on from the scared person I was, surrounded by ice and trauma. I had let go.

When I take a cold shower, I suffer. When I am out of it, that suffering immediately stops. Doing it every day grounds me. It is one of the ten daily habits that I perform every single day. And I encourage you to do it too.

You know that phrase “come on in, the water’s lovely”? Well, this water is not. It is cold and will shock you. But do it anyway. Spend two minutes out of 1440 you get today to change your life. Breathe and Let go.

Thanks for reading my blog today. You can also listen to my podcast HERE 

Andrew’s Blog: Thou Shall Not Covet

Thou shalt not covet. This is one of many instructions handed down hundreds and hundreds of years ago to give the human race clear guidance. However, like the terrible cook that I am (except for steak and eggs), I know that there is plenty of room for error in between the reading of the recipe and dinner time, and the same can be said for these commandments. We could be given all the instructions in the world, and it still might not lead us to perfect results.

But going back to the historical order, “thou shalt not covet…” I suppose my question is… why not? Why can’t I look across the road and see a faster, more expensive car and use that as my motivation to work harder? Why shouldn’t I watch the Olympics and want to look like the swimmers when I arise from a holiday swimming pool and therefore kickstart a fierce workout regime? Is there really a suggestion that wanting some of what someone else has and using that as a springboard into action to make that wish a reality is bad?

Why shouldn’t we hear that voice saying, “what you have achieved so far is not enough?” why shouldn’t we be riddled with doubt and the feeling that we are not good enough and we are never going to be good enough? Why shouldn’t we push ourselves past our edge and into a free fall of depression and anxiety and oh… I get it.

This is the Andrew Sillitoe Show, and today we are talking about life in the fast lane.

If you run your own business, chances are you are motivated. Chances are you ask yourself questions, sometimes daily, like “how can this be done quicker?”, “How can this be better?”, “How can I improve?”

All of these questions are important and should be asked. But sometimes they push us to an unhealthy place; sometimes they mean we end up in the fast lane against our will or even our knowledge.

I mentioned the Olympics earlier. If you’ve listened to the podcast before, you’ll know that I have a background in the sport. I am a hockey player, and so I have had a winning mindset for a long time. Playing sport and, in particular, team sports gives you great lessons that you can bring off the pitch and into your everyday life.

Skills such as teamwork, perseverance and hard work are vital in business. A setback in the first half doesn’t mean the game is lost before the halftime whistle blows. It means you can fight back, push yourself and win. These are all skills that I have taken off the hockey pitch and into my business. Sometimes, though, I have found myself travelling at full pelt in a direction I am not sure I consented to.

The fast lane often takes more out of you than it can give back. It could mean you are spending vast amounts of energy and time to simply not “fall behind”. When we are so focused on targets and data, we can forget the real reason we are here. I’m going to ask you a question now… Why did you start on the career path you are on? You can have a few minutes to think about it if you like. It’s not an easy question to be asked, and I know that from experience.

I have pushed myself too far in the past. I have put profit over people and sales figures over my family. I’ve asked you the question, “why did you start in the career path that you’re on” so I can check your answer isn’t “because I wanted to own the fastest car on my street.” I doubt it is. If it was, you might be feeling extremely vulnerable right now, and I am sorry for that. Perhaps you are listening to this podcast in your fast car, and you are so shocked by my almost psychic comment that you might cause a minor traffic accident. If that is you, please pull over now because we have more home truths coming your way and little to no time to wait for roadside assistance.

If you are pursuing your goals because of an inner drive to succeed, that’s great. If you are pushing yourself past your limits to get the next “thing” that you want, I’d recommend you readjust your motivations. I am not judging you. Like I say, I was in that “fast lane” trap myself. Do you know how sometimes you only realise how thirsty you are when you start drinking a glass of water? Work can be like that. You can be moving along really well and at such a speed that you are not listening to your body. It is only when you stop running that you can start to catch your breath.

As you can tell, when I was putting together this episode, I had just been swinging the kettlebell, and it made me thirsty.

However, it remains true that if you are living your life in the fast lane, you might be missing a lot of important stuff as you hurtle towards your ever-moving goalpost.

Yes, striving for excellence is essential, but when I think about why I started my business, it was, essentially, to make a better life for my family and to not turn into my Dad. Since I spent so much time away from my family to pursue this dream and whilst I was at it, I was heading towards the same early grave my father entered, it seemed I was achieving the complete opposite of what I had set out to do. I felt like a defender smashing the puck into my net. I knew what I wanted to do, but under pressure ended up doing the reverse..

The other thing about coveting what you don’t have is that you don’t know what it has cost the person who has it.

Sure after some jealous, frantic googling, you can work out based on the car reg, make and model, roughly what your neighbour has paid for their wheels, but you don’t know how much it has taken. How many missed dinners, forgotten birthdays or late nights in the office. And frankly, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is knowing that you are unwilling to make any sacrifices that will worsen things in the long run?

“Did you renew your life insurance?” My wife asked me this question over coffee this morning.

“Why? I’m not going anywhere.”

It’s a morbid thought, but it was a reality check.

LIFE IS A ONE WAY TICKET.

I must prepare for the worse. How would my family survive without me?

Then came an even worse thought.

I am not indispensable.

My wife is more than capable of making money and raising the family.

Remember: You are not indispensable.

Next time you question taking a holiday, or enjoying an afternoon off or doing the school run, remember the business will carry on.

Your business and team will survive.

Life will carry on, so make the most of the time you have and don’t stress.

Life in the fast lane might feel unavoidable, but if you put the breaks on, you might start to notice that there is more that you’re passing by than you are experiencing.

The graveyards are full of indispensable leaders.

Lighten Up

Andrew’s Blog: You Need to Lighten Up

It’s often said that when someone is lying on their deathbed, they rarely mention, in those last moments, that they wished they’d worked more. Maybe they wanted to have seen more, travelled more, loved more but rarely, if ever, worked more.

 

Humans are extremely capable of adapting and evolving. We learn to listen to our bodies and respond accordingly in many ways. Fire burns, so we keep a safe distance. If you’re feeling thirsty, drink some more water. However, when it comes to our work, we stop listening to our bodies. We push through with things that make us uncomfortable. We feel we have to stay longer at our desks, work weekends, check our emails before bed and generally go against what our bodies tell us. Your work is better when you are happy, but this fact, we ignore. It is as if getting as many sadness points as possible will make us somehow seem braver and more hardcore to our peers.

 

When I think back to school and the learning I embarked on, it is not often the lessons in the classroom that stick with me but the ones I learnt on the playground.

 

That break time when I saw the new kid sitting eating their sandwiches on their own, and some and my mates went over and asked them what their name was and if they wanted to play with us. We didn’t want to be friends with them. We were being nosey and needed a goalkeeper.

 

I think about the kid who isn’t at the top of the class when it comes to maths and science but can beat the school 100m record by 3 seconds and the pride they took in that.

 

I remember itching for the lunchtime bell to ring because we knew after sitting at our desks for what felt like days we would soon be able to laugh and run but, most of all, play.

 

Those games we used to play at break time were so important, but as we got older, those games, that playfulness we’d see only on the occasional or non-existent “away days”. The time we spent away from the desk when we were young was as crucial for confidence, development and happiness as any correct answer in English. So what changed?

 

We grew up. I, somewhat reluctantly, due to a combination of playing street hockey regularly and the general pressures associated with adulthood which I saw reflected in the grown-ups around me.

 

When I was younger, I was very competitive. I bet I was more competitive than you. See?

 

I became an athlete and a business leader, so it is clear I never lost that competitive edge that began when I was little. My goalposts moved from coming first on sports day to winning gold medals as a coach at global sporting events, but as the prizes got more prominent, the rewards seemed smaller and more than that, they cost me dearly.

 

Success is not the prize in the end. Often people start a job because they are passionate about it today.

 

Think about how many children want to be an astronaut or a footballer or a dinosaur in my son’s case when they grow up. It is not because they want to be acknowledged by NASA or win a playoff final after a long season of injuries or live near a volcano. It is because those things are cool and exciting. It should be the work that brings you joy, not the end goal.

 

It’s not holding the statue at the Oscars that means the most, or else everyone would stop after they’ve won one. Actors continue being actors after receiving the highest honour they can get because they love their craft, so they carry on. Thinking about it, the only person who should have stopped after they won an Oscar is Nicholas Cage.

 

When I think of success, it’s hard to ignore the incredible achievements of Bill Gates.

 

Bill Gates said, “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”

 

There are two things I want to say about that.

Firstly, if it’s true, it clearly shows that Bill Gates has a sense of humour, and I doubt that he has got as far as he has without one, which is the whole point of me talking to you today.

Secondly, I think this quote made me smile so much when I read it because of its truth. It’s not about staying at your desk longer than anyone else. It’s not about how family engagements you missed show your dedication. It’s not about working harder. It’s about working smarter.

 

There was a reason we had so many playtimes at school when we were younger. Yes, it’s because teachers were sick to the death of children after just minutes with them, but also because setting time aside for play, for laughter, for fun is all part of success. We need to get back to the playing.

 

I’m going to tell you a story about a friend of mine who is an actor. She was doing a show and was nervous. The show was about her being an actor and following her dreams to become one. It was a comedy, and she knew she could make people laugh but had a couple of slip-ups during the show at the start. Then she made a mistake. She said the wrong line ultimately, and everybody knew it. She stopped, acknowledged it, made a joke about how she couldn’t even tell her own words correctly. No wonder she couldn’t get an agent, and it got the biggest laugh of the night.

 

We like it when comedians mess up jokes and own them. We want it when a waiter drops a tray of food and bows when the restaurant claps because they haven’t taken themselves too seriously. Unless it is our tray of food and we are hungry, then it sucks.

 

We like to laugh. And it is good for us.

 

A 2011 study done by Dr Ursula Beermann, Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Psychology at the University of Innsbruck, looked at how different people reacted to themselves when they saw their reflection in a funhouse mirror. Those who laughed at themselves the most had the fewest negative emotions and were more prepared to acknowledge they were “not the centre of the universe.”

 

That’s why I have installed a funhouse mirror in my office.

 

That’s not true, but I do try and laugh at myself more. I try not to take myself as seriously and have reluctantly discovered I am not the centre of the universe, nor do I have the world’s weight on my shoulders. This allows me to stand a little taller and smile a little more as I do so.

 

A 2009 study conducted in Maryland found that people who laughed more were less likely to suffer from heart disease. Not only that, research has found it improves short term memory and increases your pain threshold. This means, presumably if you fall over and laugh about it, you are far less likely to hurt yourself when you do it. I am not, and I can not stress this enough, telling you to run at walls to see how funny it can be, but next time you trip, and you think nobody’s seen you know that almost certainly somebody did, and they found it funny, so you might as well too.

 

Next time it’s raining, and a car drives past through a puddle and splashes you, swear at them, by all means, but then, when they are out of sight, laugh about it, but make sure they’ve gone. You don’t want to give that horrible driver the satisfaction. And get out of those wet clothes, so you don’t catch a chill. It is essential to laugh at yourself, but it is harder to laugh when you have pneumonia.

 

Put, laughing at yourself makes you live longer and makes you better to be around.

 

Your career is a marathon, not a sprint unless you are a sprinter, and then your career is exactly that. Of course, targets, goals, awards and medals are important, but there should be other measures by which we judge ourselves and each other.

 

If you get to the end of the day and you feel like you’ve not laughed yet, you’ve been too careful. Invest in a funhouse mirror. Dance like nobody’s watching, or if this all seems too much like hard work, you can fake it until you make it.

 

Research has shown that the body gets as many benefits from fake laughing as it does from a genuine one. Sitting for three minutes with a pencil in between your teeth, forcing you to smile, has an immediate and positive impact on your mind and body. Also, you might be less likely to be bothered at work because people don’t want to talk to the strange person at the desk who is chomping down on their HB pencil.

 

These are jokes. I hope they have made you laugh. And if they haven’t, laugh anyway. It will make me feel better. And I promise it will make you feel better too.

I can make your life longer and more enjoyable.

All you have to do is lighten up.

Andrew’s Blog: Speak Your Truth

How many lies have you told today?

Depending on what time of the day you’re reading this, the number could be extremely high. I don’t want to rustle too many feathers so early into the blog, so rest assured they don’t have to be big lies. I’m not out and out calling you a liar.

But chances are unless you’re living an exhausting and time-consuming double life or have been a successful secret agent, the lies won’t be big ones but you will have told some. But how many?.. Roughly?.. I would be surprised if your answer is zero. In fact, if your answer is zero, I think I will call you a liar…

 

A recent study conducted by the University of Massachusetts found that in a 10-minute conversation, 60% of people told on average 2-3 lies. So depending on how long you’ve been awake today, chances are you are racking up mistruths into at least double figures. But don’t feel bad. It’s not just you doing it. People are lied to between 10-200 hundred times a day. It seems we’re all at it.

 

So is honesty really the best policy? Or are we being lied to about that, as well?

 

This is my blog where I talk about balancing living in a complex world. Thanks so much for reading in. I’m really glad you could join us…Honestly.

 

As you heard from my introduction, truth-telling may not be as commonplace as we think it is. However, this idea does prove that telling the truth can be difficult. If it was easy, surely more of us would do it more often.

 

There is a science to the lies we tell. For example, studies show that about 25% of lies are told for the benefit of others, to protect them, support them and assure them that no one would have noticed how drunk they were at the staff party, and they really have nothing to worry about on a Monday morning.

 

This means, however, that the rest of the lies, the 75% of the lies we tell, are to benefit ourselves. The thing is, though, they might not be benefiting us as much as we think.

 

If I ask you to think of what you want, what would your answer be? Unless this question is at the forefront of your mind daily, it might be hard to answer, but I am going to encourage you to have a think.

What do you want?…

 

I want to be really clear that I want you to search for an honest answer. Today we are going to start getting to the truth. This question was probably easier to answer when we were younger.

 

I think the reason we as adults like asking children, “what do you want to be when you grow up” is because the answers are often hilarious. If you asked me what I wanted to be when I was 6, I would have said a Hockey Player. I said it with confidence, honesty and determination. If you’d have asked my friend Katie when she was 6 years old she would have told you she wanted to be a Dinosaur.

When I asked my son, he said to win the Stanley Cup. Of course.

 

All of these dreams were clear, honest answers to the question, “What do you want to be?”

As we get older and have more regular visits to “the real world” not only, often, does our passion go, but also our honesty. I am going to invite you to have a quick think about what you want, and I want you to answer honestly. Only when we know what we are seeking will we know when we find it. Being honest about what you want is the first step towards achieving it. So be honest. What do you want?

 

Once you’ve worked out what you want, the next challenge is, of course, how do we make it happen? This question is another where lying to yourself and others will not serve you no matter how much you think it will.

 

Let me give you an example. I, as many of you, know by now, play hockey. I love playing hockey, and I am motivated to keep playing and improving as much as possible. I want to be the best player and teammate I can possibly be. If I want to achieve this, I need to be realistic about how to do that. It means taking into consideration training; it means eliminating alcohol intake, making sure my diet is providing me with the fuel I need to succeed. The least I owe myself, and the least you owe yourselves is honesty about what it takes to get to where you want to go.

 

There is a famous image; I’m not sure if you’ve seen it or not, of a ballet dancer on pointe, where they are upon their tiptoe in a ballet shoe. The image next to it is her foot without the ballet shoe on it. Her toes are bandaged, plastered, cut and bruised. Now, let me be very clear, the takeaway from this isn’t nor should it be “if you’re not bleeding by the end of the day, you’re not working.” There is little to no benefit from ending your workday with less blood in your body than you started with. But I think it is a helpful reminder that success takes hard work, sacrifice, compromise, enthusiasm, dedication and honesty. The ballet dancer makes it look deceptively easy, but they know how much it took to get there. They are honest about what it takes. And we should be too.

 

Success in business and in your personal life takes honesty. From listening to your body and really hearing what it has to say, whether that is “we need to rest” or “we could do with some exercise.” all the way to the terrifying thought that someone in your business may be able to do a job just as well as you. A thought that I confess, I struggle with sometimes.

 

If you run your own business, as I do, you know it is not just a job. It is a passion, a life choice, a tangible, real part of your existence. It is often one of the first questions we are asked when we meet someone. Remember those events we used to be allowed to reluctantly go to when we are trapped in the dreaded small talk of-

 

“…sooooo….what do you do.”

 

Although this pandemic has been going on for so long now, I almost miss an awkward small talk. My point is, the fact that running a business takes so much energy and passion means, by default, that many of us fall into the “control freak” category of humans. And there are plenty of us there.

 

We are unable to contemplate that someone else could do the job as well as us, and maybe that is true, but if we are honest, as we are trying to be from now on, remember, it shouldn’t stop us from delegating.

 

Running a business shouldn’t stop us from asking others for help when we need it. Running a business should actually force us to be better at it. It shouldn’t stop us from listening to all ideas before making a decision. Honesty comes in all shapes and sizes, and when it comes to speaking your truth, it has to come with the courage to share your truth with others and allow them to do the same. Elton John wrote, “sorry seems to be the hardest word”, but being more of a Beatles fan, I tend to relate more to the song “Help”. There is a strength in letting go and asking for help. And there’s a truth to it. And that’s what today is all about.

 

You are not under oath unless you currently are, and in that case, why and how are you listening to this podcast? But most of you are not under oath. So please don’t think that, following this episode, if you want to be a successful leader, you can never tell a lie again. But try and focus a little more on speaking your truth.

 

The great Mark Twain once said, “if you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” so start speaking the truth to yourself.

Want to level up your leadership? Start with the Ten Daily Habits

 

Andrew’s Blog: Always Be Ready

One of the things that I am adamant about when it comes to improving your business and personal life is the importance of always being ready. To quote the actor and musician Will Smith, “if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready”.

This quote is not only a brilliant phrase to say back to your partner when they think you’re not dressed in the morning, but you are, but it has real-life benefits, too. But I will get to those shortly.

There are several reasons why you might read this today. Maybe you are looking for some simple, positive changes that you can make to your life that will hugely impact your personal and business progression. If that’s you, I’ve got just what you need.

Maybe you are reading this because you have heard about my 10 Daily Habits, and you want to hear how they can work for you? I got that covered, too.

Whatever your reason for reading my blog, thank you.

The aim of this blog is simple, to improve your life. Honestly, I can improve your life. Like all of my work that came before this, I focus on making people’s lives better. Bold claims, I am very aware, but I can back it up.

I am a husband, father of three, former international athlete and coach, business psychologist, author of two books.
I want you to know that everything I talk about in my blog I practice every day.

I am not a “do as I say” whilst I talk down to you from my high horse because I don’t like heights or horses but because I am here with you on this journey.

In this blog, I want to talk about being ready. So. Are you ready?… No, I’m seriously asking you.

Let’s get back to those real-life benefits of always being ready that I mentioned earlier.

If, when you’re flying, you know where the emergency exits are and you listen to the safety briefing, you are statistically more likely to survive a plane crash. As a less sinister example, you’re more likely to pass an exam if you revise for an exam. And on a completely bizarre, but I believe still an essential comparison, if you make a plan for how you and your loved ones will survive a Zombie Apocalypse, you have a much higher chance of not being one of the baddies in 28 Days Later.

I will not tell you my escape plan for the Zombie Apocalypse, which is between my family and me and the man who helped me build my bunker. Today, we will discuss the importance of always being ready and how you can make a few changes to improve your work and home life dramatically.

When I always say ready, I mean prepared mentally, physically, and in any other way required to meet your obligations and any action you need to take to make progress.

Always ready refers to thinking ahead to what’s coming and making decisions that set you up for success. It means making decisions that will positively impact the “you” that has to wake up first thing in the morning and not giving in to the “you” that fancies another three episodes of Narcos even though it’s 1:30 am and you’ve got a meeting at 9 am.

So what can we do to make sure we’re always ready? I will start with the most simple but often neglected habit that I need to encourage you to get into—drinking water. 2 litres a day. Every living thing needs water to survive, yet with the incredible arrogance that is only ever found in the human race, we try and survive without it. And we do so at our peril. Our bodies are 70% water, and I am sure you know this, but the only people who are allowed to feel smug about knowing it are those who drank 2 litres of water yesterday. If you didn’t, please stop reading, get yourself a glass and fill it up at the sink, then you can feel smug because you’re wise and you’re more hydrated.

It’s also essential to make sure that you’re eating the right things that you need to stay ready. Of course, I’m aware of the challenges that come after a busy day. The one where you face a choice of cooking a nutritious meal from scratch or ordering a burger and chips to your door whilst scrolling through Facebook to see which of the people you went to school with have aged the worst.

I know the temptation of that because a burger and fries are delicious, and seeing your class bully look dreadful is satisfying, but I am urging you to invest in the person who needs to wake up and smash tomorrow, not the one feeling tired now. It’s all about breaking destructive cycles and giving ourselves the best shot at success. These changes aren’t going to kick in overnight, and they take training.

Now, I have a sports background; I played hockey and was a professional hockey coach. Training is a vital part of success. You would never expect to get the best results without practice, discipline and hard work.

You also warm up before the match, physically and mentally. You take the time to prepare your body and thoughts. You gather with your team and have one final message from the coach before going out there and trying to win. If you arrive at the match with half your gear missing, tight hamstrings and a hangover, you’re not giving yourself the best chance of playing well or being picked to start the next game. The same applies to success in business. It takes training and determination. If you want to succeed, you need to be ready, always.

When we see others succeed, it’s easy not to think about all the hard work it took them to get there. When a sprinter wins a gold medal, we only see them run that race. The reality is, they have been running to get to that point their whole lives. They have been making decisions to give themselves the best chance of winning the medal at that moment when all the lights are on them, but the hard work, the years of dedication and the blood, sweat and tears it takes to achieve victory? We don’t get to see that. One, because it sounds horrible and boring, but two, if you’re a spectator, you only want to see who the winner is, not what it took them to get there. They have been getting ready for that moment for their whole lives.

When it comes to the other side of the coin in terms of running, I think about the Marathon. Maybe you know this already, but I only found this out recently, so I’m sharing it with you. It’s called a marathon because, in 490BC, a Greek soldier and messenger ran from the battlefield in the city of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Greeks had defeated the Persians and won the battle. Tragically, he died almost immediately after. And that’s why you’ve got to train and get ready for a marathon. You might be able to achieve what you wanted to achieve but at a considerable cost.

Being always ready is a trait we’ve inherited from our ancestors that has allowed us to survive. Our ancestors were mindful; they were present because if they weren’t, they were in danger. If they weren’t concentrating when they were finding their lunch, they could have become the lunch. Luckily, the chances of your cheese ploughman’s turning the tables on you are very slim. But being mindful about what you are putting in your body and how it could affect you is still important. You need to think of your food as fuel and make the right choices always to be ready.

Being mindful is challenging. We are so used to pushing ourselves as hard as we can without adequately preparing. We can be guilty of overextending or overexerting ourselves and leaving nothing in the tank.

I’m not saying you have to constantly be in a fight or flight state of mind or have a bag packed to make a quick getaway. Still, if we bring this back to business, it is essential to be as prepared as possible and ready for anything. Give yourself the best chance at success by striving for it every day, with all the choices you make. Remember to be present, rest and recharge, eat well and stay hydrated, lift heavy things once or twice a week, so you stay strong, predict and avoid any possible mistakes, and plan for success.

I hope this has given you a bit of focus and clear, achievable goals that will help you put your best foot forward. If you’re heading in to work now, take a few moments to centre yourself, take a few deep breaths, have some water, and attack the day. If you’ve got a day off, do the same. Stay present and always be ready.

Thanks for reading my blog. How do you stay ready?

Start with my ten daily habits.

Download the 10 Daily Habits for free HERE

 

 

 

Andrew’s Blog: Do You Need a Break?

“The past 18 months have been exactly what I was expecting and what I feel I deserved,” said no one on Planet Earth recently.

Whether you are a spontaneous person or you thrive in a routine-driven and controlled fashion, 2020-2021 has been for humans what the Hindenburg was for air travel. It has, naturally, taken its toll on all of us. 

The Groundhog Day-style existence we have all lived through, and continue to live through, contains almost none of the charm and whimsy of the 1993 Bill Murrey classic. But instead left those of us who were not on the front line, privately walking a tightrope of massive guilt and huge relief whilst an invisible war raged outside, over and over again. Andie MacDowell was nowhere to be seen. 

It has been said before that during the past 18 months, we humans have faced the same storm, but in very different ships. My ship, like many of my equally privileged friends, sailed with relative comfort and ease. I shared the boat with my family, and although I have struggled, I have not indeed suffered. I, therefore, felt the pandemic had not had much of an effect on me. 

That was until last month. You see, last month, like most months recently, seemed to hold very few surprises. The weeks started the same as they had the weeks before… And then something unusual happened…

The woman I promised, in front of a select group of family and friends, to have and to hold, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, had seemingly done the unthinkable. She came to me with a suggestion so outrageous that I immediately began to rant.

“How could you possibly suggest that?! What do you take me for?! Do you honestly think I’d even consider that?!” came to my response at a rate of knots any Olympic sailing team would be proud of. 

The suggestion my wife had brought to me that caused such a reaction? It was not:

 “Would you like to adopt a seven foot crocodile and have it live in the house with us?” nor was it “Should we document our lives in a Keeping Up With The Kardashians reality-style television show?”. 

It wasn’t even “I’ve been watching Breaking Bad and have come up with an idea for a new business venture that combines our interests of science and investment..”

Nope. My wife’s suggestion that left me ranting and raving at her?.. 

“Do you think we should go on holiday?”

My reaction? Stone cold evidence that she was, as she often is, absolutely correct.  

As a father, businessman, coach, husband and writer, I very rarely stop. I often talk a good game about the importance of rest. I can enthusiastically and whole-heartedly encourage others to take a step back and take some time out. I also see the benefits of people doing that. I know it works. I know that in the same way sleep is essential for our development, a holiday is vital for us to recharge. I know this… but I am equally enthusiastic when it comes to pushing myself further than I’d advise anyone else to. I convince myself that I am different… 

There is a drive-in me, and I am sure that has led to outstanding achievements. There is also, on occasion, an urge to push me beyond my limits. It has meant that I have forgotten birthdays, missed parties and cancelled plans last minute because “something has happened at work.” The truth is, there is always something you could be doing, but sometimes you need a break. A proper, relaxing, off-grid, no-pressure break. 

I took a two week holiday with my family, and I’d like to tell you what I learnt from it…

  1. Anything served in a coconut tastes better. This is, of course, a joke, because I didn’t learn that on holiday I knew it already. 
  1. I was more present and in the moment than I had been for ages. I wasn’t distracted thinking about what was coming up or what had just happened. I was fully present with my family, and we have all benefited from that time together. 
  1. Being on holiday with my children reminded me of being a child. When I was young, I used to go away on holiday with my parents. Those holidays formed some of my best memories and some of my earliest. It was on holiday that I learnt to swim. It was the first time I remember hearing live music. I can remember playing boules on the beach and winning for the first time.* My best childhood memories are from being on holiday. Not because it was always sunny, and I got to eat ice cream every day. Still, it was a time when I remember my family being together… And that’s what it was like this time, but as a parent, I spent my time explaining why we shouldn’t have ice cream for breakfast rather than explaining why we should.
  1. A holiday is a time to nurture relationships. It is a time when you can talk to your partner about their feelings and not just ask them what they want to watch on Netflix. It is a time to taste your food properly, really soak up the atmosphere, and rest most importantly. You can rest safe knowing that although you are not at your computer, the Earth is still turning. You can relax with confirmation that even though you might have missed a company meeting, the sky above you has not fallen down. And you can sit back and enjoy that even though you have not read a single message on Slack or had a Zoom conversation, you are, in fact, happy.

I came back from the holiday with more energy than I left with. Humans like to think that we are far more advanced than most creatures because we generally look good in hats and shoes but need the same things all living things need—food, water, warmth, and rest. I have been putting off a holiday for lots of reasons. “How could we justify it? After the year we’ve all had, how on earth can we take a break? We don’t need to stop. We need to start”. All things I said to my wife when she suggested we take a holiday. All questions told I needed one more than ever. 

This holiday was also the first I have had sober for 30 years, and it was the better for it. I felt more present, more active, happier, all the things that drink companies often promise you but never deliver on. A drink won’t dramatically improve your day, but maybe not having one will. That was certainly my experience.

I want to leave you with a couple of questions. What personal or professional relationships do you want to nurture this week? Or is it time to plan a vacation and allow your mind to wander? Whether you start planning your next get-away or stay-cation, or just put on “beach sounds” into youtube while you put on a Hawaiian shirt, enjoy your break. You deserve it. 

Andrew’s Blog: Life in the Fast Lane

I have some very wealthy clients.

If I tried to keep up with their level of spending, I would go bankrupt tomorrow.

In my twenties I aspired to have all the materialistic things, I imagined having a big house, with classic cars and a yacht in San Tropez.

Whilst my clients would never force their wealth on me, I still find myself fighting the urge not to force their wealth on me.

It is very easy to get caught up in the desire for wanting more – but in many cases, my clients would give it all up for a more simple life.

I am happier when I keep my life simple with three simple ingredients:

  • Water
  • Healthy food
  • A good nights sleep

Then my business, body, relationships and mindset thrive.

Or we can make our lives complex and stressful by stretching our capacity too far. Is it worth it?

Let me know how you keep your life simple.

 

 

Andrew’s Blog: Is It Worth It?

I have some very wealthy clients.

If I tried to keep up with their level of spending, I would go bankrupt tomorrow.

In my twenties I aspired to have all the materialistic things, I imagined having a big house, with classic cars and a yacht in San Tropez.

Whilst my clients would never force their wealth on me, I still find myself fighting the urge not to force their wealth on me.

It is very easy to get caught up in the desire for wanting more – but in many cases, my clients would give it all up for a more simple life.

I am happier when I keep my life simple with three simple ingredients:

  • Water
  • Healthy food
  • A good nights sleep

Then my business, body, relationships and mindset thrive.

Or we can make our lives complex and stressful by stretching our capacity too far. Is it worth it?

Share your tips in the comments on how you keep your life simple.