Peter Woolf, career criminal, talks openly about how he has turned his life around
Leaving a long life of crime, and a life sentence behind him, Daniel shares his incredible story and thoughts on Mental Toughness
Letters from CEOs rarely move me. They’re often full of corporate-speak and half-truths. The CEO and Co-Founder of Airbnb, Brian Chesky, changed that with his letter to employees.
The global economy is having a sudden cardiac arrest and despite Brian’s social media following and celebrity status amongst the startup community, he too has been forced to act. His beloved company will axe 1900 out of their 7500 employees.
Leading through and out of a crisis is not easy. The uncertainty a crisis brings can leave people feeling disorientated, overwhelmed and unable to act. Intentional leadership is key in these times and those leaders who are able to slow down, step back and challenge their perspectives and exercise their mindset muscles are the ones most likely to succeed and thrive. The question is how?
I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to lead a nation, to make decisions on which the lives of tens of thousands, or millions, of other people depend. If you get things wrong, or delay deciding, they could die. You’d have to make hundreds of daily decisions that affect the livelihoods of your entire country. You’d have to act quickly, without having any real certainty your decisions will achieve what you hope.
For a masterclass in crisis leadership, look no further than Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand. They have had the ‘most decisive and strongest lockdown in the world’ and it’s the only Western country that’s got an ‘elimination goal’ for COVID-19.
From AD166 to around AD180, Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, faced one of the worst plagues in European history. The Antonine Plague, named after him, was probably caused by a strain of the smallpox virus. It’s estimated to have killed up to 5 million people, possibly including Marcus himself.
Repeated outbreaks of the virus occurred throughout the known world. Roman historians describe entire towns and villages being depopulated and going to ruin. Rome itself was particularly badly affected, carts leaving the city each day piled high with dead bodies.
In the middle of this plague, Marcus wrote a book, The Meditations, which records the moral and psychological advice he gave himself at this time. He frequently applies Stoic philosophy to the challenges of coping with pain, illness, anxiety and loss. It’s no stretch of the imagination to view The Meditations as a manual for developing precisely the mental resilience skills required to cope with a pandemic.
First of all, because Stoics believe that our true good resides in our own character and actions, they would frequently remind themselves to distinguish between what’s “up to us” and what isn’t.
Your people may be feeling stressed or anxious, and could be struggling to cope. As an employer, you have a duty of care to protect the mental and physical well-being of your employees, but what can you actually do to help?
Think back to your childhood…every time you started something new you were excited. The possibilities were endless. When you were young, you didn’t know what you didn’t know. Everything was easy, and it was all fun. That is, until you decided that you wanted to be good at it.
Not asking for help when you needed it
Trying to make bad relationships work
Dwelling on your mistakes and shortcomings
Worrying too much about other people
Regret is another big waste of time. Most of us are probably guilty of all of these at some point, and really, they’re human nature., so there’s no point in beating yourself up. The sooner you learn from them, the sooner you can free up your time and energy to live the life you want.
Watch, read, or listen to the news, and you’re likely to believe that the world is rapidly descending into disaster and chaos.
Research shows us that what we see on the news can significantly impact our mental health. While negative news may influence our thinking through multiple mechanisms, one important consideration is how it interfaces with our cognitive biases, keeping our focus on everything that’s going wrong while blinding us to all the good things around us.
It’s not easy interviewing Denise because every time I ask her a question, she talks about someone else. She defaults to others, continually. She is more interested in everyone else, than herself. She is one of those selfless people that can choke you up in an instant, because she is so kind and so giving. I am beginning to get it. Nurses don’t feel very comfortable talking about themselves. It’s all about other people. All the time.
Victoria in one of nearly 2 million healthcare professional is the UK who are driven by a passion, mission, purpose – call it what you will – to help and care for people. It’s a driving force that is almost palpable when she speaks. Their purpose is so clear, and so strong, that finding the mental toughness (confidence, commitment, determination, courage, focus) they need to do their jobs – to do the work they do, day in and day out – comes easily and naturally.
Are you putting off tasks at the moment, despite the extraordinary amount of unexpected, spare time of some of us are getting right now?
In 1992, Dan survived a plane crash that killed 16 people, including one member of his skydiving team. He spent six weeks in a coma, with major injuries including a broken neck. Dan went on to win 6 world sky diving world championships.
Christina grew up with a schizophrenic sister, who was admitted to a psychiatric hospital as a teenager. Then in her mid 20s she developed an auto-immune disease called lupus, which crippled her for a few years. She has had breast cancer twice, including a mastectomy. Amidst her health issues, her sister, father, mother and brother all died.
“Nick this is the worst news I could be giving you” said the doctor, “We’ve measured your prostate PSA level (prostate specific antigen). If it was normal we’d expect to see a score below 4. Your score is 625. You have highly aggressive stage 4 prostrate cancer and it has spread into every bone in your body. It’s out of control.”
What Lis Allen means by that, is that death has played a significant role in her entire life. Her childhood was heavily impacted by the death of her brother, the murder of her aunt and in adult life, the suicide of her niece. In addition, her work as a palliative care nurse and manager of a cancer charity, she has helped literally hundreds of families face death.
It’s not often I come across a person who has excelled in both the business and sporting/adventure world. But I found him. He could possibly be the academic’s archetypal specimen of a Mentally Tough person. He is confident in his abilities, a visionary leader, sees every challenge as an opportunity, always sees things through to the end goal, is empathetic and, annoyingly, he also looks ten years younger than he is. His name is Kevin Gaskell.
“You know the Bear Hunt book?” Anna asks, “Well I love it, because it’s just like life – you can’t go round it, you can’t go under it – you have to go through it. It sums up resilience for me.