I arrive at Covent Garden tube station and exit onto the main square. Memories come flooding back of several outings here over the last 15 years of working in corporate London. Images of me drinking cocktails and Jager-bombs when I really just wanted to be at home chilling on my sofa after a gruesome work-week. However, the peer pressure of corporate life meant I had to show my face for these work outings. My boss would remind me at lunchtime, “Don’t forget our clients are over from New York. We have to show them what a fun bunch we are.” As I walk through the main square with the street artist performing for tourists, I shudder and shiver at the thought of the volume of Jager-bombs and Long Island Ice Teas I drank to survive those outings.
I haven’t been drinking for the last four weeks, although it feels like four months, at the moment. Recently found out I am going to be a dad and, in solidarity with my partner-in-crime, agreed not to drink during the pregnancy. A very ill-advised move now that I reflect on it in hindsight. As my wife is growing from scratch our unborn child, it has been challenging trying to offer support. Every morning brings fresh challenges, pelvic movements, bowel movements. And even after sleeping 9 hours straight, she looks like she’s been running a marathon. I’m completely flummoxed and have no logical words of encouragement, so I offer to give her a back and foot massage.
I arrive at my friend’s birthday to catch-up with my university friends. As usual, they look perplexed when I inform them I’m not drinking, with almost the same look I imagine I would receive if I told them I just killed someone. Unfortunately, it’s too early to share the news of the imminent arrival of my unborn child. Anyway, after sidestepping the attempts to make me drink, it turns out to be a very enjoyable evening, being sober as they become more inebriated.
I catch up with a friend who starts asking me about mental performance coaching, and to my shock admits he is following me on Instagram and reading my blogs. Considering he has a challenging job and manages his four kids, I’m amazed he is able to find the time to follow my work. So, we start talking about his upcoming second marathon and his love of ice climbing, which fascinates me given that I recently watched ‘Free Solo,’ a film about the guy who scaled Yosemite Mountain without a harness rope—a truly crazy feat. I nearly vomited in my mouth while watching it.
We move onto corporate life and he describes a meeting he had the other week, which had started off harmlessly enough. He was presenting performance results for the department he had recently inherited, which was not in good health. Thanks to his efforts, the department was slowly starting to show signs of improvement. However, midway through the meeting, things took a turn for the worse. One of the other managers started attacking him over the results. KGB-style interrogation techniques kicked off. The meeting went on from 9am until 9pm, with no lunch break. Ridiculous!! During the meeting, other managers were dropping in and out and taking turns to stick the boot in and stab him in the back. An image enters my head of sharks feeding, the frenzy that happens once predators smell blood and launch for the kill.
My friend was rolling with the punches, ducking, diving, and using the ropes to hold himself up. It sounded better than the recent boxing match between Antony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr. He said he felt down and buried several times given the total lack of preparation: He was only supposed to have presented for 30 minutes and instead was interrogated for 12 hours. His opponents were varied, with some flying into London specifically for the meeting and coming prepared with facts and figures to hit him over the head with. I asked him how he survived this mental onslaught. His reply was his mindset. Once he knew he was under attack, the ego side of him kicked in and he swore he would not give in, no matter what.
After the meeting was over, he thanked his main attacker and was back in the office at 6:30am the next day with a coffee, croissant and a big smile for his attacker—ready to go again. Let’s get ready to rumble part 2. At this point in our conversation, I had a Eureka moment, realizing that people in the corporate sector are high performance athletes. I’m sure Anthony Joshua would have struggled with the mental onslaught my friend endured. My friend, as it turns out, had a great mentor who taught him how to think correctly under pressure, stay calm and create distance from his thoughts and emotions in order to respond skillfully to the challenges in front of him. He had developed endurance and a “don’t give up” mindset that helped him survive the onslaught. It made me respect what is required to perform in high profile, challenging roles and the work required on your mindset to protect and develop the right mental skillset.
How do you train your mindset to navigate challenges in your career?