How to stay motivated – Nathan Farrugia – UpYourLevel, interviewed by Monique Chambers.
Originally recorded and broadcast by CampusFM.
Full transcript of the audio is below:
Monique: You’re listening to Entrepreneur Clinic on campus FM with me Monique Chambers and my guest this week Nathan Farrugia of Ultimate Performance discussing motivation. So Nathan are we born motivated or can it be trained?
Nathan: This is the age old question of nature versus nurture. I think that the environment we are brought up in is probably that leads towards us being motivated or not. So the way we are raised, we probably have more impact than our innate genetics. So I think yes the motivation is something that you can teach.
Monique: You can teach okay. And so how do you motivate yourself? Were you born in a environment where you were very motivated as well? How do you actually motivate yourself every day?
Nathan: Well, when I was four years old, I was diagnosed with severe asthma. And for me, the motivation to be out there playing with my friends and climbing trees was such that it was an obstacle because I wasn’t supposed to do those things being a child who with exercise with sugar and asthmatic attack, so therefore, I really had to find ways to motivate myself to do uncomfortable things. And when you become comfortable being uncomfortable, then less things daunt you. Your comfort zone grows and you take things more proactively. And in a sense, that does lead to motivation. Because you realize that you can do things that most people might think you couldn’t or you shouldn’t.
Monique: So obviously, you’re known and when we’re not going to go to that but you are known for extreme sports, you’ve overcome your asthma now?
Nathan: Yes, absolutely. And this is also thanks to my parents who pretty much Sign me up for every sport under the sun to try and cure my asthma rather than follow the medical advice, which was stay away from sports. So they flipped it on its head. But I think going back into the motivation aspect for me, it was the purpose that really was the motivator, I wanted to be out there like every other kid playing with my friends, that’s motivation. That purpose was what drove me through that discomfort.
Monique: And what motivates you today, then, so still playing with your friends and climbing trees?
Nathan: With my kids[Laughs] I think fundamentally, it’s the same, its purpose. Once you figure out what your purpose is and the goals that you set in order to achieve that purpose, then you’ll have a sight of where you need to be going. And that is motivating in itself, if you don’t have a goal. I mean, if you look at, you know, Lewis Carroll, if you don’t have a goal, any road will get you there. So therefore, there’s no necessarily a need for motivation. So I think purpose is critical. For me, it’s, it’s making a difference. It’s looking at how I can contribute the impact I can make. And that’s in the wider sphere. So impact could be with my family could be with my employees, it could be to society in general.
Monique: And so as a start up, as an entrepreneur and trying to motivate themselves every day. Are there any sort of tricks, any guidelines you can give us to help people in those sort of tough times of starting up a business where things aren’t always very smooth? How can people keep sight of their goal, how can they stay motivated?
Nathan: I came up with this idea of, you know, reflecting back at my life history I went from being a freelancer, self employed person, to going into jobs, then into management and leadership, and now back into self employment and startups. And the journey has taught me a lot and also from the adventures that I’ve done. And I really sort of look at this acronym of Light your fire. And those four things for me, are seek to do things at fulfill you, seek to make an impact, look at yourself in a role that you are portraying so whether you are a startup, whether you are a parent, whether you are a husband, so in that road, and be virtuous in that road, be as good as you can be, as a boss, as a parent, as a husband. And then seek excellence. And excellence is all about being better tomorrow than you are today at that particular one thing that you’re good at. So it’s really about fine tuning the skill and the arts, really understanding what you’re good at and playing to your strengths. Most often, people try and fill up their weaknesses they focus on, they do a SWOT analysis. And the data this is where we week, I, my idea is focused on strengths and turn strengths into super strengths, because that’s, that’s your USP. So don’t try and be everything to everyone. Just really focus on what you’re good at. And, and, and make that what you’re good at excellent.
Monique: And is that something again, within a sort of startup environment to motivate your team, you would try to do the same thing you’d like to set them on fire?
Nathan: Yes. Because the idea is that the more layers you have, if you look at those four things as situations, you can lay them on top of each other. So for example, if I’m designing a startup, and I want to infuse my crew, I want them to be clear of what they’re going to get out of it. So how it’s going to fulfill them , what they need to do to become excellent, or how they can go through this process and at the end of it become excellent, because that’s going to serve them in any case, even if they leave the startup, that their role is defined, they know exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. So they have for want of a better word, the job description, but that really
suits them and they feel empowered to live that. And that ultimately, the stuff is going to make a difference. It has a purpose. And I think, again, this underpinning purpose, the why, you know, Simon cynic in why we do things is also all powerful, especially in tough times. So when you start losing sight of the why that’s when things seem to be falling apart, you know, they can’t understand what’s going on, if you if as the leader, you really need to wave the flag of this is why we’re going through this pain. And if you can do that and keep that vision up there, then people will stay engaged.
Monique: Is there an easy way for companies to do that there’s something like a visual key?
Nathan: I sort of put this together as a as a visual map, which I use with when I’m coaching CEOs. And it works. It’s handy because it sort of gives people a bit of perspective of the different aspects of it. Because what happens is, when you’re stuck in a rut, when you can’t see the wood for the trees, you just worry about one particular thing that you are facing at the moment. If you step back and take a helicopter view of things, and you start looking at the different perspectives of why you’re in that business and why you chose to do this, and you’ll see where you need to do more to be excellent, where you need to do more to have impact, then the meeting starts to come back again. So if you do need to take a deep breath and step back sometimes and take advantage point
Monique: You advise your clients then to have something like on the wall stuck on the wall or what?
Nathan: Well it depends on what suits them. Some people are, are very visual. So they like to have that, you know, the doodle and meetings and write stuff down or draw, other people prepare maybe a more wordy approach like a project document or a vision statement or something that’s inspiring in that sense
others are great. That’s sparking imagination. So sometimes it’s just the way that they see things in their head. But the danger there is, how are you going to translate it to, for people to understand.
Monique: Okay. Are there any simpler exercises that we can pass on? So if you’re facing a really mundane task, or something’s not going well, but you have to face up to doing whatever it is the filing or the accounts or the chasing of the money? How can you motivate? Is there a simple way of getting over that hurdle to make sure that that task is achieved, so that you aren’t facing a brick wall of fear? Every time it comes around? There’s something really simple that we can all carry around in our heads?
Nathan: Yes, well, there are two things I do. One is I use mindfulness. So mindfulness is a tool that allows you to recalibrate your mindset. So I’ve gone off track, I’m upset, or anxious or frustrated, mindfulness brings you back into yourself.
Monique: But what do you mean by mindfulness?
Nathan: Mindfulness is, is a little bit like meditation, but it can be done walking, or it can be done outdoors, it’s not sitting in class or whatever. And it’s about pressing the “CTRL, ALT, Delete” of your brain, so that you will reset and find your feet again, and it can be done through breathing techniques. There’s different ways of doing this, there’s plenty on the web on how to do that YouTube videos, etc.
The other aspect is the critical understanding that any emotion, anxiety, frustration, etc, is all in our heads. So, you know, the accounts, the mundane task, whatever that is, is there as a state of fact, it’s our interpretation of it as being mundane, or creating anxiety that causes the problem. So once we understand that the neurophysiology in our head is what’s getting in the way, then we can look at it the task as what it really is rather as something frustrating.
Monique: To reprogram yourself essentially to adjust it.
Nathan: Yes, address it. And that’s what I do with a lot of people who want it without, when I’m
coaching, it’s giving them a different perspective of what may be blocking them to achieve
Monique: and how do you go about doing that?
Nathan: Firstly, it’s understanding where they’re coming from, everybody sees the world through their own lens. So we may be both in this room. But you we were both described very differently. And once I understand where that person is coming from, then I can get into their shoes and understand why they’re blocked. And then it’s really I’m trying to find ways to unlock that and give different perspective.
Monique: And when it comes to a tougher situations, they’re not necessarily a mundane task, would you address it in the same way?
Nathan: Even more so because the more involved you are, the more hijacked you get. So therefore, if it is a very emotional issue, or a very, very fearful issue, then the depth that you are in that and the consequences of it makes it much more difficult to get out of it. So it’s a bit like the drowning man catching a straw, you know, you just going to hold on to this, because that’s what you’ve got. So taking a step back, taking a deep breath, being mindful of how your emotions have taken over your logic is the first step and then it’s looking at options.
Monique: Okay. So we talked about live, we talked about the drowning man or a really really tough situation that the company is facing, would you share that with your team? Or would that affect motivation? How do you address that because they’re going to notice you stressed at appointed on that do you do share the love or the fear?
Nathan: Well, I think people have different styles in how they lead. My style would be full disclosure, I think that people who have decided to follow you should know the environment that they are in the risks that they are undertaking with you. But I also think that when you disclose the fears that you have, it needs to be done in a way that is objective. So if you are going to offload all your emotions and frustration and anxiety and fear on to them, then you are just going to transpose the problem on to them. Whereas if you are able to step back first, and then go to them with a matter of fact, look, this is the situation, these are our options, let’s discuss what would you think maybe you have some ideas that I can’t see, because I can’t see the wood for the trees at the moment. And therefore that disclosure can actually facilitates finding solutions. But if they’re going to be hijacked by your own fear, if you’re just going to dump that on to them, they’re going to be stuck as you.
Monique: You wonder if it means people are just going to jump ship, because they see it see it sinking and they don’t want to be the drowning man or if they are going to be on your side.
Nathan: Well I think ultimately, if you look at the long term prognosis of this, what you want is the people that really matter to stick around. So if they do stick around, you know they’re important for the long haul. And that’s ultimately what we want. So in itself, situation like this will actually determine who is really in it through thick and thin, who’s going to follow you rather than the people who are there for the comfortable right. But as soon as it gets rough, they’re going to jump ship as you say.
If you just joined us you’re listening to Entrepreneur Clinic on campus FM with me Monique Chambers and my guest this week, Nathan Farrugia from ultimate performance, we discussing motivation.
Monique: So goals. How do you keep them in mind? And how do you define your strategies?
Nathan: Okay, well I think there’s a bit of a chicken and egg. A lot of people develop their strategies by first determining the goal, they put a long term goal it right in front and say, Okay, so what’s the strategy to get there, I think that was with this day and age and the way that markets change. And the haphazard nature of economics, it’s very very difficult to set goals that will be there in a sustained way. So the way I try and describe it, and the analogy is, if you’re steering a ship, which is your business or your startup, if you are always at the front of your ship looking for land, sometimes you forget how to stay that ship. And sometimes you need to sit the back and
take care of their other and make sure that you don’t go too far left and too far right. And that’s really understanding why you’re in the boat, what is it there for, what are your values? How far left or right would you steer without going too far out of your values or your sense of direction? and haven’t really your head land? So you know, yes, it’s true, stick your head up and look across like really focus on the radar and the direction I think particular startup where it goes maybe have a to airy fairy.
Monique: And but what if you’ve got a goal that may come out on a whim initially, and it just seems gigantic, you’ve started this business, you’ve started hiring staff, people are paying or people aren’t playing ball. And it just seems too big. How do you get over these impossible hurdles? How do you attack those?
Nathan: Okay. Another analogy from the challenges I’ve done. When I was doing the ultimate last year beside the run in the cycle, I had to swim the straits now, when you jump in the sea is pretty rough, and you can’t see land. So it looks like you’re just swimming out into the open. And that can be very daunting. So the analogy is if the if the goal is too far away, or it’s not structured yet, you can’t really define it, then you just need to focus on putting one arm over the other and paddling away. What happens is that every now and then you stick your head up and you start to get an understanding of where land is, in this case, in this metaphor, and that then becomes motivating. So you’re like, Okay, it’s getting closer, it’s getting closer, keep pedaling, keep pedaling. So if you are in a situation where you can’t see land, really focus on the journey, focus on the process, focus on doing things right, focus on this mix that we talked about already, of having things on a daily basis that fulfill you, that drive you towards excellence, that talk about your virtue and your values. And if you really stay focused on those things, then the goals will come I believe. The problem if you don’t, is that you might take a side road just because and not know that you’re lost. And that then becomes a problem.
Monique: Okay. I’m just imagining you swimming and cycling the straits and wondering what would have been going through your mind at that point in time. And so but again, you’re paddling away, you’re trying to get towards your goal. And but you just have block, there’s a wall there, how do you get over? What can you tell yourself?
Nathan: Yeah, well when the problem seems so big there are two things that happen. One is the actual brain system that we have, which is neuro chemicals, this is stuff happening inside your head. And this is really about the flight or freight response that is really deep in our brain, it’s our self preservation. So what happens with fight or freight is that you end up not making logical decisions, but making decisions that are really about self preservation. So if you’re trying to run a business based on that fight or freight approach, you are going to make knee jerk reactions rather than long term sustainable ones. So we need to get out of that. And that is, the only way you can do that is to get out of out of your own head, get out of your own way. And you need to find ways to distance yourself from the problem, take a timeout and then start to approach it from a different standpoint, the way I like to describe it as if you put the problem in the middle of a
room, you step outside the room and look at it from outside of the room through the window. That way it doesn’t hurt you, it can’t touch you and you can be a bit more open to what the consequences might be what the real situation is. There are great tools you can use like you know, the six things has to Bono reframing on a problem through you Charles Hatley that, there’s different ways and techniques you can use, which you can Google for these, all they do really is get you to separate yourself from the problem so that you can see the wood for the trees.
Monique: And is it is this where an organization like yours would come in where you then help people to overcome these problems, to set their goals, achieve their goals, and motivate their teams to reach them?
Nathan: Yes, what’s interesting is that sometimes it just takes one meeting one aspiration just to get people unstuck. So, you know, I like to talk as our role is to unlock to unlock potential. And sometimes it’s just having that conversation and getting people to distance themselves from, from the problem rather than firefighting. Other times, we like you to take it further by actually being this the ongoing strategic support. So we’re, we’re helping lead the journey until we can let go, and they can continue on their own. So it really depends on the amount of support that they need. But our client is always in control. So the idea is that we are there to get them back in control back in the driving seat, and then they can see what they need.
Monique: So they’re still see steering the ship, you’re just being the balance. Nathan: Yes, exactly.
Monique: Okay. And have you come across any examples where people should just throw in the towel? Is there a point that you can recognize where you just say, Okay, give up, this person is not going to be motivated, or you are not the right person to be leading this business? Is there any signs of that that people can maybe start to recognize within themselves or their teams that you couldn’t highlight?
Nathan: Yes. Well, I think it’s interesting point. If you look at most of when quite a number of failed startups happen because the person that sets it up is great at starting something but very bad at managing it, or leading it.
Monique: I confess. [Laughs]
Nathan: So it’s all about, you know, getting the right people on board at the right time in their life cycle of that particular business. Richard Branson is a great one, he starts up businesses, but
then he gets in their way. So he needs to move out and get people in who can manage the businesses. And that’s a smart thing to do. So understanding your strengths and weaknesses and being self aware is critical. The problem is that if you’re so emotionally attached to it, then it’s very very difficult for you to actually realize that you need to step away. And sometimes with the enthusiasm or the over enthusiasm of being the owner and the startup and the person that created all of this, you don’t recognize the fact that you’re not necessarily the best person to continue taking your business forward. So I think, usually the biggest problem with the situation of failure is the lack of recognition that failure is happening just by being dug it and saying, No, no, but we must make this work, we must make this work, this is how we have to do it. This is what we plan to do, and forget that circumstances change. And sometimes you need to change direction.
Monique: So with your organization, Ultimate Performance, how can you help people? What do you actually you do when you go into these buildings and have the after these conversations? What do you mean by strategic health along the way?
Nathan: Well, my job is really to simplify the issues. Most people who are stuck, lose a little bit of perspective, they obviously are living that and breathing that business. So they will always potentially look at experience to drive decisions. So what didn’t work before won’t work now, or what worked before should work and they’re very frustrated when it doesn’t happen that way. So bringing an external person into take a helicopter view of it. And actually, sometimes drag people away from those preconceived notions of what should happen and why it isn’t is already enough to start creating the change in mindset required for the solutions to start to emerge.
I like using coaching and mentoring and sometimes just being a sounding board to question. I’m the what if type approach which I, which I love is easier? What have you to do differently? How about this, and you, they will obviously go back to their policy cost mindset rearview mirror sort of looking at, well, it won’t work, because we’ve tried this last time and that’s not what we’re about. So it’s already about pushing the right buttons and getting people to think differently about the solutions that may emerge.
I think that conversations are critical, I think that there needs to be a level of self awareness with the individual to actually understand that they’re stuck.
Often, there’s a lot of blame, it’s someone else’s fault, it’s the market for us, it’s the senior team’s fault, it’s our shareholders who forced us to do to make decisions and helping people realize that that is just an emotional attachment to a situation and that they have to get over it or get around it.
And sometimes it’s more prescriptive, it may be actually saying, look, let’s follow a process, let’s go through strategy making, let’s have a day away from the office and build a framework. And sometimes that’s sort of is enough for people to have something to hold on to, and then carry it forward because conversation can be abstract, when you start putting things into boxes, then sometimes it becomes clear.
Monique: And that gives the sort of can reignite their fire and make them more motivated, because they’ve broken down the problem. And you can address it, so with exercises with conversation, steerleading from behind, so to speak.
Nathan: Yes. Exactly. It’s really about whatever works. [Laughs] Ultimately, you just want to unlock that person so that they can find their own solutions. I don’t know about their business. I don’t know how to run their businesses. My job is to help people solve their own heads in a business sense to refocus their original efforts and energies and dreams of what they wanted to achieve when they first started the business.
Monique: And what if they may have set up the business five years ago, and now the market is changed, the markets may no longer be there? Is it breaking the news to them? Or is it aiding them to pivot the business into a new direction so that they realign the goals, the goals might have changed slightly, and then you can guide them towards these new goals, you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got. So if you can, sort of change the business slightly to make it more modern, maybe now needs to be smartphone enabled, or whatever, your audience is now different? Can you help with that kind of organization as well?
Nathan: But always in simple terms, going back to the roots of “Why”. So I won’t necessarily go into finding whether smartphones would work versus, you know, whatever, tablets, but I will question the reason why they are stuck and really go back into why they’re there. What gives them fulfillment, what was the point of starting the business, and once you can backtrack past that block, and then all of a sudden, you start to realize there are other paths and you start to turn left or right without being stuck and this is what we do and his is what we’re supposed to be doing.
If you go back to the past and start again, how would you do differently? And they go, Well, yeah, I could go left. So you’re basically putting them back so they can stick themselves
Monique: And this is an exercise or these exercises, something you do with the whole team, obviously, depending on the size of the company, or is it just for the management team, executive team.
Nathan: It starts with leadership series less where I start having said that I’ve worked with sales teams. So it’s really specific about creating a sales mindset. You know, the same old story of prices and markets and shrinkage and all that. Getting them unstucked to actually look at other things like values instead of euros. So you can work with specific teams, I think individuals within you’ve got key stakeholders that may be on the board who are blockers and therefore working with them on on one also helps.
Monique: So just before we wrap up, can you give us a motivational quote that as we’re getting out of our cars are going to work today we can keep in our heads just to face off on mundane tasks or to face on difficult challenge that we have to face today?
Nathan: Look, for me, it’s always been about making a difference. It’s having some sort of impact. Now if that impact is something small, that’s going to happen on the day, being useful to a colleague or helping an employee or something more major making a strategic decision which will take the business in a new direction it doesn’t matter as long as you are making a difference and if you add a little bit every day then the long term benefit is huge.