Now I have a bit of an obsession with fear. Or – at least I didn’t realise I had – until looking over some of the amazing guests we’ve had and have lined up for the podcast this year. And realising that fear – or at least mastering fear – seems to be a constant and underlying theme.
So that raises the question of why – what has fear got to do with influence – and why can’t I seem to leave it alone. I’ll tell you why – other than because it’s a daily dance of my own in one way shape or form. As it is for anyone that’s ever tried to do or say anything in the public domain – or any domain for that matter.
I think it’s because – over the years of working alongside influencers – I have met and worked with one too many brilliant people, one too many brilliant ideas, companies, brands and products. One too many people with something important to say or contribute. Who have all been left on the sidelines as a result of this statement: ‘I will do this… when I feel more…’
Sound familiar? Essentially – I will show up, stand up, be seen – and offer the full force of what I have to offer. When I feel less fearful.
So – in that sense – fear – or the ability to move towards it, harness it, rewrite it’s stories and relinquish it’s control over when and how we show up. Is the ultimate key to influence. Without it – the rest – negotiation tools, presentation skills, content algorithms, leadership habits – all mean nothing at all. So – there’s my why.
Now back to this episode. As a metaphor for negotiating with fear – surfing a 50 foot wave has to be on top of the list. As one of Australia’s best big wave surfers, my next guest Mark Matthews understands better than most the the intersections of fear, focus and staying in place when backing out seems like the only sane option. In fact – one of my favorite moments in our conversation is where he talks about ‘Holding the line’.
I don’t know if many of you will remember that infamous scene from Braveheart before the great battle – possibly showing my age here – where Mel Gibson shouts ‘HOLD!’ over and over again as the charging army gets rapidly closer. Mark talks about how he literally uses this technique, this phrase – over and over again when at the crest of a wave – to keep himself in position until that exact right second. Basically – to prevent himself from reacting to adrenalin by backing out or moving too fast.
Unbelievably – as you’ll hear – Mark was frightened of the ocean as a child and spent his childhood visits with family to the ocean sitting on the beach. YET – he went on to carve out a niche as one of the top big wave surfers in the world. Having surfed many of the world’s heaviest and biggest waves including Cape Fear, NSW, Teahupoo (hope I got that one right), Tahiti, Maui and – well – if you know anything about big waves – you’ll be able to recite the rest. He has won three Oakley Big Wave Awards and is considered one of the best big waves surfers in the world.
Then – while in surfing in Australia in 2016 – Mark fell feet first onto a shallow reef – waking up later in a helicopter in a full body brace. He had tore his artery, nerve, multiple ligaments and fractured his shin. After an artery transfer he was assured by Dr’s that he would keep his leg – but with that kind of nerve damage – he would never be able to surf again. What followed was a new journey into fear. The fear of starting again. Only this time against the odds – and while the whole world was watching.
In this epic conversation Mark and I dive into:
The role of risk analysis in dealing with fear
How to ‘hold the line’ when you’re so committed you can’t back down
Why pushing any boundary starts with being unreasonable
How to ignore the feelings that make you want to run – and swap fear for focus
The power of embracing the pain – to stop the brain shutting you down.
How to consciously choose your next adrenaline kick to take you to the next level
AND why you should always train for wipe out scenarios – in order to push past where other people would choke.
I loved my conversation with Mark. He’s unassuming, humble – and yet driven to take on challenges that will blow your mind. Just quickly Google his name and look at the images that come up – that will be enough for you to get a sense of what I’m talking about.
So – if you know you have a 50 foot opportunity or challenge coming your way – or maybe feel like you’re surfing one right now – then this is for you. Sit back, buckle up – and enjoy my conversation with phenomenal big wave surfer Mark Matthews.