“Make a change.” With Mark Whittle

Oftentimes we have to hit a real low before we recognize the impact certain bad habits are having before we decide to make a change. Having the right people around you is huge! Surround yourself with those you aspire to be like who have habits you admire and you are far more likely to lose […]

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Oftentimes we have to hit a real low before we recognize the impact certain bad habits are having before we decide to make a change. Having the right people around you is huge! Surround yourself with those you aspire to be like who have habits you admire and you are far more likely to lose your own bad habits. There are also tools like ‘habit tracker’, an app that allows you to monitor the habits you undertake and keep on track with positive habits and remove the negative.

As a part of our series about “Optimal Performance Before High Pressure Moments”, I had the pleasure of interviewingMark Whittle.

Mark Whittle is a performance coach and the founder of Take Flight, a peak performance movement — compiled of a №1 podcast with over 500,000 downloads to date, and an event and seminar programme.

He is an inspirational entrepreneur, athlete, speaker, coach and has recently become a father. For the last five years, Mark has travelled the world, speaking with the highest achieving athletes, entrepreneurs, and lifestyle specialists, to uncover the mindset, philosophies, and daily habits required to reach our best.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Iwas brought up by entrepreneur wolves! My mum and dad both created businesses. The fruits of these companies were spent sharing the world with my brother and I as often as possible. I experienced so many different cultures and saw all corners of the globe offering such a unique perspective of the world at such a young age. It opened my eyes to what’s possible in a single life time, which in truth is ANYTHING. I was also pushed into every sport going and benefited a huge amount from the variety of people I spent time with as a kid.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career as an entrepreneur or business leader? We’d love to hear the story.

I built a very successful career in the city with two of the best companies in the world, but was still searching for my true purpose. After hitting rock bottom, in one enlightening moment, I realised my mission was to empower people to overcome obstacles and limiting mindsets — and take flight in their own lives.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

So many people have impacted my life. The obvious place to start is my family. My parents, both entrepreneurs, set an example that following your own path and creating something for yourself is the norm and almost expected. I was told from a young age I could achieve anything and that filled me with confidence. Then, there is my brother. He is an adventurer and we have a very healthy competitive relationship and always spur each other on to do more. Beyond that sport played a huge role in my life. As a footballer I learned how to win and lose. How to work hard, see progress and earn success. Sport taught me so much about life, relationships and ultimately was the place I first started carving out my values that I still live by today.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

I find it hard to think back to mistakes. Everything that happens in life is for a reason and I’m grateful for the lessons that present themselves daily. I’m not sure I’d call it a mistake, but when I left football and joined my first big US corporate, I was like a fish out of water. We had an assessment day which would test our product knowledge before we were let out into the field to sell. Having spent the last 15 years in a football team and changing rooms, you might imagine the conversation was far from what would be discussed at the board room. During one of the assessments sessions I attempted to make light of a situation by dropping a David Brent quote in front of the UK exec’s and It was reported back to me that it was far from appreciated. That was my first lesson about the new world I was in, that I would ultimately leave 10 years later.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

The best advice I had as a kid was ‘be yourself’. It sounds so obvious, but spending time in our youth to figure out who we are is so incredibly important. If we don’t know who we are we end up taking on others opinions or beliefs of who we are and that is a dangerous path to tread. My advice would be, try things that scare you. Seek new experiences and figure out who you are, be completely unapologetically, and be yourself.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I never read when I was younger, then when I retired from football, I felt lost — who was I without the game? My brother gave me a book called ‘the obstacle is the way’. It found me at the right time in my life and I read it at least once a year still. I also have a full bookshelf of recommendations on my website, for people to enjoy.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

What you think you become. It resonates because I have seen it time and time again in my life. What we give attention to comes into our life, so be purposeful with your thoughts.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

The podcast is about to reach its 100th episode. I’ve spent the last 5 years speaking with the most successful individuals in the world searching for a formula we can all apply to our lives that allows us to feel happier, healthier and more fulfilled. The practices our guests share are great insights into how we can improve our lives immediately. I also have an energy bar called ‘Home Run’. We designed a bar that very low in sugar that provides a sustained energy release to fuel our workouts the right way. It’s a plant based healthy alternative to high sugar bars on the market that I believe the world is crying out for. I’m also working with amazing clients was part of my coaching, helping them find more purpose and design a life that makes them happy.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As a business leader, you likely often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to cope with the burden of stress?

Through the conversations on the Take Flight podcast, plus my own research I’ve discovered so many practices that can help manage stress. Meditation is a non-negotiable for me, I practise a form of meditation called TM (transcendental meditation) and I use this proactively each morning to set a foundation for the day. It allows me some calm before I start what will typically be a very fast-moving day. I use breathing more reactively, if I feel stressed or if I feel anxiety creeping in there are a number of breathwork practices I use to manage the symptoms. Most easily 6 long deep breaths all the way to the top of our inhale and importantly all the way to the very end of our exhale have been shown in studies to shift our state from the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) to the parasympathetic nervous system (resting). This calms me down in most situations. At the end of the day I love to walk with my dog to get in nature, ground myself and have time to be present, but also have time for some introspection if needed.

Aside from being able to deal with the burden of stress, can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?

There is a lot of cross over with my answer above, as we need calm in order to perform at our best. We need clarity in any type of performance, to get that clarity we need to be very sure of what it is we are trying to achieve.

Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques, meditations or visualizations to help optimize yourself? If you do, we’d love to hear about it.

Visualization has been a part of my life since I was an athlete. The key to visualization is the feeling attached to it. If we see ourselves achieving a particular goal, attaching the feeling that moment will give you as you visualize will make all the difference.

Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?

I like to couple coffee with ashwagandha. Typically, after 11am so my body has mostly woken up naturally.

We all know the importance of good habits. How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

Habits are critical for success. Each day we can improve incrementally or not. I choose, as much as possible, to improve. Our habits are the foundation for this. Habit staking is a hack I like to lean on. The concept of habit stacking suggests that if we put three or four habits together, in the morning for example, when we carry out the first, we are more likely to follow through with the whole routine. For me, hydration, mediation, training, sunlight and gratitude is a typical morning routine.

What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?

Oftentimes we have to hit a real low before we recognize the impact certain bad habits are having before we decide to make a change. Having the right people around you is huge! Surround yourself with those you aspire to be like who have habits you admire and you are far more likely to lose your own bad habits. There are also tools like ‘habit tracker’, an app that allows you to monitor the habits you undertake and keep on track with positive habits and remove the negative.

As a business leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

By pursuing something we are truly passionate about, we stay motivated through the joy of the pursuit and continue to drive towards achieving that thing that inspires us. Too often we give up, but it is essential to bump up against challenges when seeking flow. This has been a consistent theme in my findings throughout take flight. It can be tiring to be consistently outside of our comfort zone which is why passion is such an important ingredient. Truthfully though, finding flow in our work is difficult. On failing to find flow in our work, turn to activities that involve danger. That danger will heighten our awareness of the challenge in front of us, strengthen our feeling of presence and push us into a feeling of flow. I love snowboarding, climbing or motorbiking for this!

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

To live your life, not someone else’s. When we are in alignment with who we really are and are doing what we really want to do, our energy and frequency is higher. This means we will be happier, healthier and live with more meaning — which importantly means you are being your best self, allowing you to serve those around you in the best way possible.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I would love to speak with Michelle Obama, Will Smith, Lebron James, David Beckham and The Rock.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Listen to my podcast ‘Take FLIGHT’ on all streaming platforms. Follow me @markwhittle_tf and see my website for any upcoming events at fl1ght.co.uk

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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