The Frog Graham Round – failure and experience

The Frog Graham Round – failure and experience

When you set out to achieve something and then don’t achieve it, do you regard that as ‘failure’, or ‘experience’?

I got back home this morning after a weekend up in the Lake District.

Yesterday was the day of the ‘Frog Graham Round’ – an epic 40+ mile swim and fell running challenge I’ve had my eye on since January.

An event that I had estimated would take me and my running buddy Guy around 16 hours to complete, but in the end we had to call it a day after only 8.

We were disappointing not to have finished, and although it was a tough decision to make it was absolutely the right one from a safety point of view.

Horrendous weather and very poor visibility made navigation and staying upright a nightmare.

One small mistake of missing a turning left us on the wrong side of an enormous valley, and by the time we had clambered our way back on track again all hope of finishing in daylight had vanished.

Success and failure

On the day that Mo Farah made it 5 straight years of winning the Great North Run, I failed to make it 5 years of successfully completing my own annual ‘big challenge’ series.

4 years ago I ran 10 marathons in 10 days.

3 years ago I ran 100 miles in 24 hours at Endure24.

2 years ago I completed an ironman triathlon.

1 year ago I ran another 100 miles in 24 hours at Endure24.

Yet this year’s ‘failure’ has probably taught me more about myself than any of them.

The 37km of running, 2700m of ascent and 1km of swimming across Bassenthwaite Lake has all given me valuable experience.

More wisdom was gained from our crew team, Nigel & Roger, who both shared their knowledge of the area.

The weather was the deciding factor but the recce also exposed a number of weak points in my preparation… some more painful to deal with than others.

Over the next few days I’ll be mining some of the important biggest lessons from this weekend’s non-completion, and I’m certain that I’ll be back to take on The Frog next year.

Mental Health | Getting back on track after a struggle

Do you find that some days you feel you can take on the world and handle anything?

Then other days it’s a bit more of a struggle.

You walk around in a mild panic, feeling like you’re about to drop one of the many important balls that you’re trying to keep in the air.

I get days like that.

Pushing hard, getting things done, but feeling like I’m swimming against the current.

Like yesterday, for example, which was a super productive day…

I filmed the 2 remaining workouts for my 21 day program, then another 5 short videos on procrastination and self-evaluation…

…Coaching sessions with clients, a speaking engagement briefing call, produced some content for my groups, trained in the gym, walked the dog in the morning with my son, and sat down to dinner in the evening with my family like we always do…

But for most of the day I felt this niggling anxious sensation prodding away at me.

Yet here I am, today, back to taking on the world.

I can’t tell you what you should do when you get days like that, but I can tell you what I do to get myself mentally back on track again in the shortest possible time.


Because I don’t know about you, but it’s not much fun when your head is filled with negativity and crap about what could go wrong.

No matter how much stuff you are getting done in your life.

The first thing I do is to acknowledge what is happening.


That I’m feeling a bit wobbly, that I need to be a little kinder to myself, and that what I’m feeling right now won’t last forever.

This always makes me feel a little better right away, as it gives the problem context.

Even if I can’t in that moment see the light at the end of the tunnel, it reminds me that it’s there.

The next step is to pivot from Victim to Victor.


Do you notice how when you’re feeling a little anxious or scared you tend to focus on the problems?

This is happening, that is happening, woe is me…

Very difficult to change your situation or start to feel better when you’re in this mindset.

The easiest way to pivot from Victim mode back towards all-conquering Victor is GRATITUDE.

A few moments spent reminding yourself of what you have got makes it much harder for your mind to latch onto what’s missing.

For me, this is often enough to nudge my thinking towards solutions and away from the problems.

Don’t get me wrong, this takes practice and if you take just one thing away from this email today it should be that awareness always precedes change.

Just becoming more aware that you’re feeling a little wobbly without the expectation of change is a great starting point.

Be kind to yourself.

Cut yourself some slack.

Avoid the things that you know are going to stress you out.

Do the things that you know will make you feel calmer and more settled.

Be grateful and above all else, remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

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P.S. One of the most rewarding parts of my work is getting on the phone or Skype and coaching clients to help them get more clarity, confidence and enjoyment from their lives.

Sometimes when we’re in a bit of a fog it’s difficult to see the wood for the trees, and a little guidance can go a long way.

If anything today has resonated and you feel that you would benefit from some guidance, make sure you get in touch.

I have a number of coaching spots available from next month and am looking to work with people who are ready to make some changes in their lives..

Productivity: Defining Categories of Useful Work | productivity insights through journaling

It’s amazing how helpful journaling can be to jot down some of your ideas, thoughts and even how you’re feeling.

One of the things I find gets in people’s way is knowing what to write and where to start.

And really there is no ‘best’ way to do it, you literally just write down what ever is on your mind.

I think when you put pressure on yourself to come up to a certain standard it can put you off before you even get going.

Grab a notebook, stick the date at the top and just… write!

I’ve been doing a lot more of this recently and it’s really been helping me process my thoughts.

I also find that when I start writing, new thoughts spring out of nowhere which in turn lead to more new ideas.

This hasn’t been limited to written journaling either.

Every day this year I’ve recorded a short video with thoughts and observations on my journey towards my motivational speaking goals.

And quite often I find that I have new ideas and make sense of things right there in the middle of the video.

Something to do with articulating thoughts I expect… taking them from the jumbled mess inside your head and putting them into some semblance of order and sense.

In yesterday’s video for example I was talking about how I had yet again failed to do any kind of meaningful work for this goal.

Understandable as it was a) a Sunday and b) I spent most of my day working on a DIY project (I’m putting in a new bathroom lol!).

But I found myself trying to make sense of this as I pointed the camera at my face, having said the day before that I was going to do at least an hour of productive work.

The realisation was that there are three categories of ‘useful work’ in this respect.

1) Following up with leads and developing business

2) Sharing who I am and what I do with the world (for example in these blogs and emails and social media posts)

3) Creating content (for example new talks, workshops and seminars)

I thought that was them all, but half way through the video I realised there’s actually a 4th, which I broadly categorised as ‘research and development’.

This is all the TED talks and presentation videos I watch, books that I read and listen to on my subject matter, and even the skills development of activities such as Toastmasters.

Even the daily videos I upload onto my YouTube channel.

The thing is, it’s #1, #2 and #3 that make me feel like I’ve ‘been productive’.

But #4 is just as important, and possibly more suited to the change of pace of a weekend.

That key insight might seem really obvious, but it was a revelation to me yesterday.

It took me from a feeling of guilt from getting behind on my promises, to one of control and empowerment that I am already doing a good job of balancing my personal and business goals, with my role as a father, husband and DIY-unenthusiast.

The insight was the result of 5 minutes of ‘journalling’, and has a real world value in terms of my effectiveness and happiness.

If you don’t already do any form of journalling, why not give it a go this week.

No expectations… no pressure… just 5-10 minutes of jotting down a few of your thoughts.

See what you come up with, and don’t forget to let me know if you uncover any gold!

Improving from feedback | Toastmasters evaluation project

Improving from feedback | Toastmasters evaluation project

Listening to feedback on your performance can be uncomfortable, but this feedback is essential to growth

Last night I gave a talk at my local Toastmasters club, Thame Speakers.

I filmed last night’s talk and uploaded it to my YouTube Channel as my daily video.

I have recorded my thoughts on progress, challenges, and ambitions every day this year as a way to keep me focused on my goal of becoming established as a motivational wellbeing speaker.

The talk itself was on a subject I’ve been writing and speaking about a great deal lately: how to do more of the things we already know we should be doing.

Toastmasters talks are generally only 5-7 minutes long, so part of the challenge is to produce a presentation that has a beginning, middle and end, and still delivers something of value.

I focused my attention on one aspect of the mindset seminar I’m giving in Thame next month: how to connect the WHAT to the WHY.

Evaluation

At a Toastmasters club meeting, each speaker has a ‘personal evaluator’, who makes notes during the speech and then gets up later on to deliver their feedback.

It’s proved to be an immensely powerful system for learning, and I have both received and given dozens of evaluations over the last 9 years I’ve been a member.

But that doesn’t make it any more comfortable!

Reflecting back what you already know

Having somebody reflect back what you already know, yet haven’t wanted to admit to yourself, is tough.

You thought you were getting away with it… that nobody was noticing… then you realise you were wrong.

The problem with not admitting faults and limitations to yourself is that you can’t do anything about them.

But when it’s articulated by another person in a way that is empty of judgement and full of support, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel it can now be addressed.

Points for me to work on

As it turned out, the evaluation from this particular talk didn’t make especially uncomfortable listening.

The main points for improvement were:

1)  There was a lot in there for a short talk; strip out some of the detail

2)  Use additional rhetorical questions to the one I used at the start, to keep the audience involved in the talk

3)  Include one or two more examples to help the audience put everything into context

Learning and growing

If you’re going to endure the discomfort of listening to feedback you owe it to yourself to act upon it.

The purpose of this particular project is for me to do just that.

Having delivered the speech and listened to the feedback from my evaluator, I now need to repeat the presentation at a later date and incorporate the suggestions.

Upon which I will be evaluated again, and no doubt receive more suggestions for more improvements!

Self-evaluation

Toastmasters is great for evaluations but there’s a huge amount to be gained from self-evaluation as well.

Every time I finish a talk, whether that be here at Toastmasters, at a company, in a school or anywhere else, I spend a few minutes reflecting on it.

I try to come up with 1 or 2 things that I felt went well, and a couple of things that I might have improved on.

3 of the things I came up with for this talk were these:

1) Vary my hand gestures more

2) Move more purposefully, spending more time ‘on the spot’

3) Slow down and pause more after main points

Feedback in ‘real life’

Toastmasters is an organisation set up to help members grow through constructive, honest and supportive feedback.

But where do you get that in other areas of your life?

Most of us don’t go around telling people what we really think in case it hurts their feelings.

If somebody hasn’t actively sought critical feedback and (crucially) is ready to take it on board as an opportunity for growth (think: ‘does my bum look big in this?’!), honesty isn’t always the best policy!

So if we want useful and truthful evaluations on how we’re performing in specific areas of our lives, we have to ask in the right way.

Honest people

My friend Gerry Duffy talks about having 5 different types of people in your life, with one of them being somebody who will always tell you the truth.

Usually this person has to be somebody you believe has an educated opinion; somebody you respect and trust in their judgement.

Even they won’t usually just blurt out what you need to hear.

Here are three checks to put in place to get the most out of your honest friend feedback:

1) Give them permission to be honest with you, making it clear that they are giving you feedback on your performance and not you as a person.

2) Be ready to ask questions so that you have clarity on what they mean by what they say

3) Make sure that you are feeling robust enough to separate the INFORMATION from the EMOTION.

If you’re feeling a little vulnerable or fragile, having somebody ‘be totally honest with you’ might not be the best thing for your state of mind no matter how much of a growth opportunity it is!

Thame Seminar

We’ll be digging deeper into the subject covered in the video at the Thame ‘Knowing To Doing’ mindset seminar on September 27.

Check out this short post for more information and other details including how to book a ticket.

Maths, life and the chaos theory

Yesterday I spent the morning in the local secondary school contributing to their ‘maths at work’ day.

Sharing examples of how I use maths in my every day working life to groups of year 10 students.

I always enjoy demonstrating how trigonometry is ‘essential’ in adapting the press up for clients of various abilities.

A tenuous connection perhaps, and although I’ve never actually got my protractor out in the middle of a workout, the general principle holds true 😉

The appeal of maths

I started each session off by telling them how much I have always LOVED maths.

When I asked them who else shared my not-so-secret passion, funnily enough I don’t get many hands going up!

I’ve often thought about what it is that appeals to me about maths.

I studied it to A-level and then my engineering degree was pretty much all maths for the first year.

I realised that what I enjoyed most about the subject is that it’s either right or wrong.

There’s no opinion, different points of view, or unexplained forces at play.

You follow the formula carefully enough, and the answer will always come out the right way*.

Real life

As I thought about this later it struck me how much this differs to real life.

Sometimes you can follow the ‘formula’ for success to the letter, and still get a different result to what you were expecting.

Or you can get the right result, but have somebody tell you that in their opinion, you’re still wrong.

Can you imagine how much simpler everything would be if it was as straight forward and predictable as maths?

Funny thing is, even though we know that it’s anything but predictable we still sometimes find ourselves expecting things to turn out a certain way and then being disappointed when they don’t.

Not a closed system

Life isn’t a closed system and there are many unpredictable forces at play.

You can’t control everything that goes on in the world around you, but you can influence how you respond to it.

This requires an understanding of who you are and what’s most important to you.

Something that many of my coaching clients tell me is missing when they first start working with me.

Maybe you’ve experienced it before, where you find yourself feeling a little lost or directionless?

Like you know there’s so much more to give but don’t quite know how to unlock it.

Coaching programs

This is a key part of my coaching programs, and right now I have a couple of opportunities that may be of interest to you.

The first is to join my ‘flagship’ 3 month private coaching program, which currently has 3 more spots from August.

And the second is to join me and a small group on a 2 day retreat on the Jurassic Coast for a combination of physical and mental adventures.

If you’d like more information about – what they involve, whether they’d be suitable for you, and what the investment is – just drop me a line.

Time moves on

The secondary school I was speaking at yesterday is the school that my daughter will be going to in September.

She had her primary school ‘leavers assembly’ today, and it seems like just yesterday she was there for her first day as a little 4 year old!

Time moves on.

We grow, we change, and then we’re grown up.

But we don’t ever have to stop evolving.

Let me know if you want to find out more about working with me on your clarity, confidence and mindset and we’ll see which option might work best for you.

*This holds true until you start talking about the chaos theory.

In short, this theory explains why results in a dynamic system (like the weather, geology, or even life!) depend on the STARTING POINT.

This is why somebody else’s success plan isn’t necessarily going to yield the same results for you.

What you need is a plan to get you to your next level, not the next level… whatever that is 🙂

New Book Project | “I know what to do, so why don’t I do it?”

New Book Project | “I know what to do, so why don’t I do it?”

Publically committing to writing a new book to help more people bridge the gap between knowing what to do… and actually doing it 

After writing my first book for beginner runners in 2014 I was itching to get stuck into another project. But none of the ideas ever got fully out of the gate and so here we are, 4 years later with still no second book on my Amazon profile.

Over the course of the last 6 months I have found myself talking and writing more and more on the subject of behaviour change. How we can start doing more of the things that we already know how to do.

So it seemed appropriate that this should be subject of any book I commit to writing.

Procrastination

Ironically, once I decided that this was definitely going to happen I still found myself procrastinating and putting off the process of starting. I realised that I was going to have to put into practice every one of the principles I was planning on writing about if it was to see the light of day. 

Getting Started

I got going a couple of weeks ago by mind mapping my ideas to help me make sense of what I wanted to include.  Since then I have been logging my progress with the book in some of my daily videos.

Although these videos focus mainly on the progress I’m making with the speaking goals, there is a great deal of overlap with the book as it’s the same subject that I speak about!

[One of the biggest revelations to me in the last 6 months has been how I’ve come to terms and even thrived on the fact that many of my videos get ZERO or very few views. 

I used to be an external validation junkie and still am in some respects, but this has been a great exercise for me to build a habit that is not based on the approval of other people 🙂 ] 

Purpose of the book

My objective with the book is to create something that brings together all of my ideas and processes that I use in my coaching & online programs to help people do more of the right things.

I also want to produce something that supports my speaking more than a book aimed at beginner runners ever could.

There are a number of subjects that I hear people talk about regularly that I wanted to address:

Self Sabotage

Those actions you take that move you in the exact opposite direction to your goals! Such as skipping workouts or mindlessly eating entire packets of biscuits.

Procrastination

Knowing what to do, but just quickly doing all these other really important things first… oh look I’ve run out of time!

Overwhelm

Sometimes it can feel like there’s just so much that needs to change, even thinking about it adds to the stress.

Ask the audience

One of the first things I did after sketching out my initial ideas was send out a simple 3 question survey to my list of email subscribers and various Facebook communities.

The questions were:

1) What specifically do you do when you self-sabotage?

2) What do you say to yourself when you are doing it?

3) What would a book of this nature have to contain in order fo you to find it useful?

It was incredible to receive 200+ responses to these questions, which gave me some invaluable insights to add to what I thought I already knew about the depth and detail of the problems we all face.

Approach to publishing

At this stage I expect that I’m going to take a similar approach to publishing the book as I did with Beginner’s Luck, i.e. self-publish on Kindle and use Create Space to print on demand for paperbacks.

I’m not adverse to the idea of getting a publisher for the book, but I’m not going to build looking for one into my process and timeline. Self-publishing worked well for me last time and I see no reason to believe that I can’t replicate the success with this book.

Updates

I’ll be putting occasional book updates here on the blog and more regularly in my daily YouTube videos.

If you have any questions or media opportunities, please get in touch directly!