Dr. Fergus Connolly

Enhancing Human Performance

Dr. Fergus Connolly - Catalyst Podcast
Catalyst Coaching Podcast

Full Transcript

Dr. Cooper

Welcome to the latest episode of The Catalyst Health and Wellness Coaching podcast I’m your host, Dr Bradford Cooper, and the topic on the table today is human performance. Dr. Fergus Connolly is joining us, one of the world’s foremost human performance thought leaders and influencers. He’s applied performance science with leading sports, military and business teams and is the only coach to have a full time role in every major sports with teams that frankly, we would all recognize, including soccer, professional and college football and rugby. This episode was one of my favorites we’ve done, and you’ll see why very shortly.

Dr. Cooper

For those of you considering pursuing the national board certification as a health and wellness coach, you don’t need to rush, but you might want to get serious about your options as the NBHWC requirements are changing later this year, and those changes are gonna involve more time and more money on your part. So if you’re on the fence, this might be a good time to jump in. Our next two fast track certifications, and you can pick either one or do the distance learning are April 4th and 5th and then June 13th and 14th. They likely will fill early due to the upcoming changes. So please contact with any questions at Results@CatalystCoachingInstitute.com. Or you can go ahead and get registered at CatalystCoachingInstitute.com. And if it helps, there is a six months no interest option that’s available. Now let’s listen in as Dr Fergus Connolly shares his valuable insights about human performance at all levels on this latest episode of the Catalyst Health and Wellness Coaching podcast. Dr. Connolly, it’s a privilege to have you. I really appreciated Dr Singh suggesting we connect. Welcome to the show.

Dr. Connolly

Thank you very much for having me. And, she’s a wonderful expert and a wonderful person on her own, right?

Dr. Cooper

She really is. She really is in so many ways. Absolutely. Well talk to us about your journey. Our audience knows your background, but how did you end up doing what you’re doing today?

Dr. Connolly

Oh, I think this is where I’m supposed to tell people, you know, to follow their passion and all of these different things. Or maybe the other answer is well I had a plan and I stuck to it and the truth is that I took a career break from teaching 15, almost 20 years ago and I never went back. I started, my plan was actually just to be a teacher. My father, not just, I think teaching is, actually, probably the most important job, most important profession today and it’s becoming more and more important. That’s a whole other conversation. But my plan was to be a teacher and then coach kids playing sport in Ireland and I just had a huge passion for sport, for understanding performance, for helping people, because as I was coming through lots of different people had helped me. And then there were things I wanted to learn that I didn’t get the opportunity to. And, I just wanted to help share my lessons and experiences in sport with kids. And I was very passionate about performance, about sporting, about learning. So I would save up my money, even when I was at university and when I started teaching, and I would travel and visit teams and coaches to learn from them and it was just fulfilling. You know, an interest, a passion. And on one of these trips, I got offered a job. Shortly afterwards, a team called me and said look, you were here. You were really interested. You seemed to have a lot of knowledge about what we’re doing. An opportunity has come up and we can’t find anyone else who maybe shares your interest and passion for what we’re doing. Would you be interested in joining us? And so like I said, I took a career break, thinking I’d do this for a year or two and then go back to a nice, steady, stable job teaching, and I’ve never gone back and the job’s long gone. So I just have to keep doing this.

Dr. Connolly

I started working in the Premier League in soccer as a strength coach. A sports scientist. I worked in Rugby, worked in the NFL, worked with college sport, worked with the special operations groups. And I was fortunate, I guess, in that I started in elite sport. And started with very, you know, well known, highly paid athletes, so that’s a different demographic. But what was interesting over the years then was that I slowly started to recognize that they do need to be prepared in a particular way and there’s no argument about that. But I started to notice that the foundation for long term success were actually a lot of the basic principles that everybody’s faced with. So that was a really interesting journey and understanding for me. And it was something that I had to learn. I think one other thing that might be of interest, you know, to your listeners as well is that, you know, I started really studying strength and conditioning. And I was led to believe, or I believed at the time, that if you’re really strong, you know, then you’re gonna be fast and you can prevent injury. And then I realized, okay well nutrition has a huge part to play in this. So I studied all that I could about it and about supplementation and about everything else. And then I slowly started to notice that psychology is important and this kept going on and on you know, biomechanics, neurology, cardiopulmonary, all of these different things. And it slowly dawned on me you have to treat the person holistically and understand how all of these things are intertwined to create a foundation first and foremost, on which you can build continued, sustained, elite performance.

Dr. Cooper

Excellent. Very well said. Very well said. Let’s pull back the curtain a little bit for folks that don’t get to see the stuff you see. So you’ve worked with incredibly successful athletes, coaches. You’ve been in those teams settings, you’ve worked with the individuals. Could you share a couple stories from those settings, and we can keep it anonymous. But that might surprise people who don’t regularly or ever spend time with those groups and maybe only get to see them from the outside.

Dr. Connolly

I think what might surprise some people is that many of the mainstream ideas so, you know, eating a very healthy diet is what all athletes do. They don’t many have them have very poor dietary lifestyles or lifestyle, you know, routines. But they managed to compensate because of, you know, a genetic advantage, perhaps athletically. And they can manage that for a short period. But what you do recognize is that for sustained success, for very long careers, those athletes don’t survive. But often when you go and visit a team or an organization you see guys eating fried foods or candy or chocolate or having very unorthodox approaches to diet, nutrition, recovery. And it works. And so the very first thing is that some people think oh we have to change that. Well, that in itself brings incredible destruction and you can lose the athlete. But you do recognize that over a long term you have to slowly make those changes. So I guess what I really learned was that helping in the former is driving on the freeway between the slow lane and on the fast lane, you have to work at both speeds, and you have to recognize that. I think that’s one of the things that people might find unusual. They might think that well, you know, elite teams have everything right or elite performers do it. And very often, it’s not the case at all.

Dr. Cooper

That’s really interesting because you do think today with all the all the information and the support staffs and everything else that they would have that dialed in. Is it just they look the other way when the athlete is such an elite performer, that they just figure, you know, I just don’t want to mess with it?

Dr. Connolly

I think a lot of it is that many athletes rely largely on physical abilities, which they have developed over a period of time. And if you look at society and you look at the sports industry, and it’s really an entertainment industry at this point in time. Many of them come from very poor, you know, disadvantaged backgrounds. So they developed poor dietary habits because of socioeconomic situations. It’s not that they choose that. And then it’s very difficult, as we all know, to change a habit, or to change from a food that that you’re used to eating. And particularly when a guy with a strange accent tries to tell them you need to be eating broccoli and they’re going first of all, what is broccoli? And secondly, you know, I got here, what do you know? And this is what’s going through their mind. So you just can’t simply sit down and say, well, what you’re eating is wrong because they’re gonna look at you and say, well, you know, I’ve won five Pro Bowls or look at these NBA rings. You have to recognize and understand where they’re coming from and empathize that many of these kids and athletes have achieved an awful lot in spite of what we might think are poor lifestyle habits. And so that’s the first thing, I think.

Dr. Connolly

The other thing is that in terms of developing the athlete, you know, the collegiate system today is very much about how much money can the department bring in. So it’s not necessarily concerned with, you know, the long term benefit. They have an athlete here for four years or three years or two years or whatever it is. It’s about getting short term results. So the long term investment in the athlete is not, you know, the Jerry Maguire scenario. It does not really exist in sport, which is unfortunate, but that’s, you know, that’s because of the nature of the industry. So, really, in order to make change, and your listeners would really appreciate this as well. The very first thing is to develop trust so that the athlete recognizes that you genuinely have their interest at heart. And just as an aside, you know, I just had a text message from a player at the Patriots just thanking me for, you know, for help that I’d given him over his career. And it’s just nice to get that because that’s based on them recognizing that you have their best interests at heart. It’s not a purely financial relationship, and that’s very, very important if you want to build, if you want to change habits in your players or your athletes or your clients.

Dr. Cooper

That’s such a great reminder, because the coach’s face similar things. They may not be working with the elite athlete, but maybe they have an executive they’re working with or somebody else. And they’re saying, why are you talking to me about my fill in the blanks? Sleep eating habits? Whatever it is. I’m the CEO. Or I’ve done really well at this point. So what you’re saying is you take a step back and you say I’m just gonna take this and I’m gonna put it over to the side. I’m gonna focus on building the relationship. And then as that relationship builds, the trust will build. And then maybe we can come back to the broccoli or whatever it might be.

Dr. Connolly

Yes, and it’s, to use a military term, it surfaces and gaps. So when you approach someone, you will get easy wind straight away because there generally will be something that they have an issue with, and you can help address that. And so, you know that you’re coming to them with a solution. So that’s driving in the fast lane for a little bit, so you can move fast or not. You can make change on the things that they will resist against which you know will make a difference. So using broccoli as the example, we put that in the slow lane for the time being. So I know that when I get trust built up with this other thing, for example, sleep and I get by in, then I could move broccoli into the fast lane, and we can move fast with that. But there are some things that have to stay in the slow lane and it’s always individual. So with different players, they really want to, for example, change body composition. So maybe, you know broccoli and stuff can go into the fast lane quickly. And sleep is the one that has to stay in the slow land. And so I don’t ever just stop to build trust in a relationship. I’m always looking for a surface which I have to put into the slow lane and a gap which I can exploit very quickly, and that builds trust as well. So it’s always happening. It’s building that relationship. But it all starts with understanding your client, and it is the same.,I work with some executives as well, and it’s still the very same approach. But it all comes from truly understanding their fears and needs and where you can move in the fast lane with them and where you need to move in slow lane and bit by bit, make progress.

Dr. Cooper

Very good. Very good. All right. So speaking of the Patriots, I read your interview about Tom Brady’s lasting success. I mean, the guy is just still crushing it, and you notice that maintaining a healthy lifestyle and you went through diet, sleep, strength, flexibility, spiritual, cognitive resilience. That’s critical, not just to life, but the NFL, at the highest levels. Are those same elements key to any high performer or is it different for those that are focusing on non athletic pursuits?

Dr. Connolly

No, it’s critical and just, I’m not claiming any credit, Tom Brady’s not a client of mine before anybody gets excited. But no, I think it does. It’s always the same. And it’s the same in an elite military unit, an NFL quarter back, you know, point guard in the NBA. It’s the same for everybody. The foundational lifestyle principles are universal because, those superstars, or incredibly successful people that we see on TV for whatever arena they might be in. They still need these pillars of performance to continue to build on. And they specialized then in a particular area. But for everybody, you know you can for short periods, maybe cut corners. But you will not be able to sustain performance, elite performance over a period of time, if you don’t have those foundations in place. And what I’ve learned over the years, as well, is that you know, emotional control or mental resilience or mental toughness. All of these things have a physiological basis on which they’re built. So your diet will influence mood, which over time, if you don’t respect it and don’t regard it, you’ve developed minor, I don’t want to call them psychological problems, but, for example, irritability. If you, you know, snack on a lot of sugary foods, you drink a lot of coffee and you cut corners on your sleep. You will notice your personality, and you can push it hard, but you will notice that your personality will have negative consequences, not just on you, but on the people that you work with. That’s an example of, you know, cutting corners over a period of time. That’s the same for an elite performer. There are some differences where they do have to perform at a very high level, but it’s usually only for short periods over time. It’s when you try and sustain that, those bad habits, that’s when you crash and burn.

Dr. Cooper

Good. It’s interesting, my PhD was basically focused on mental toughness and our studies showed exactly what you’re saying. That if you establish these things, your mental toughness is higher. If you’re doing these things, and it wasn’t the classic, just grit your teeth and get out there. It’s what you’re describing. So it’s nice to see that consistency.

Dr. Connolly

Yeah, absolutely. And, you’ve seen my Ted talk, and I speak about, you know, my own instance of burning out, trying to look after too many people. And I used to have written on on my wall 16, 2 and 6. And really my reason for that was that there were 16 hours of work a day I could get done. I could get two hours for travel to and from work and for eating and six hours of sleep. That was what I, during periods of very intense work, I would you know, aim for. And you can sustain that. But for a short period. You’re not intended to do it for two years straight or for a year straight, which is the mistake that I made. You’re trying to look after too many people and not, you know, prioritizing my own health, as well. So I’ve been a victim of it. And that’s why you know, elite units will only, you know, have guys, on tour for six months very often without, you know, before they get a break. Because you have to. And many, you know, I learned that the hard way, but you need to, understand that, yes, life is tough. Life will be difficult. And there are periods where you’re gonna have to push hard. But you need to put in bricks so that you can recharge and get back to normal for and rebuild those batteries, those pillars that are that foundation, like you say, from mental toughness.

Dr. Cooper

So let’s look at those five areas, so the ones I wrote down and feel free to add to it. But diet, sleep, strength, flexibility and spiritual cognitive resilience. In those five areas, are there specific aspects of one or a couple of those that when you’re working through those with someone, might surprise people about the way you go about doing that?

Dr. Connolly

I think that really what we’re trying to do is to recognize that the athlete is a person as a whole and recognizing that you need to treat the person before the player or you need to treat, you know, the person before the executive. And I think it’s important to recognize that, the Soviets used the term functional reserve. In other words, we have a certain amount of, in Eastern Medicine they to refer to as chi, we have a certain amount of energy. Our body allocates that, depending on the demands of the time. But you need to recognize that diet, sleep, rest, all of these things contribute to the so called, you know, master battery that we have, that is there for us when we need it most, when we drawn on resources. That’s why, for example, you know, if we cut corners on sleep and food, we might end up with with a cold, or we might end up with with, you know, sleep issues, but we draw energy from other parts in our body to compensate it at any point in time.

Dr. Cooper

Your new book, first of all, love the title. I don’t know if that was yours or somebody walked you through that, but you nailed it. It’s titled Game Changer: The Art of Sports Science. Perfect. Perfect combination. It looks fantastic. Could you give us a couple of highlights that might be of particular interest to health and wellness coaches or folks that just are wanting to improve their own health and wellness in their lives?

Dr. Connolly

Yes, so the book was written primarily for team sports coaches, and so what I did essentially was I wrote out all the principles that I’ve used, working across all of these different sports, which, you know, nobody really had worked full time in the NFL or international rugby or in the Premier League. And as I went from each sport to sport, I recognized there were common principles, and that’s what I put together. And it caused a lot of interest among coaches initially because they started to realize there’s a lot I can learn from these other sports. And also, you know, one of the sections is about the athlete as a person and how it’s essentially the same athlete in every sport, it’s just that the skin is slightly different. Like the same psychological components used, same physical etc. And the fourth section is about teamwork culture, and about how there are the same common themes in every sport. Like what does it take to create a high performance team? And then what ended up happening, ironically, were that a lot of coaches who were coaching, you know, part time or coaching their kids local softball, lacrosse, football team, started to realize that these principles of, particularly teamwork and functioning applied directly to their corporate culture. And so I started to get more and more inquiries and contact from people who are working, for example, in law firms, attorneys, traders even who had heard about the book, had started to use it for coaching their kids and realized, hang on a second. These principles apply to me. They apply to my staff and so many of them, I’ve worked with one company actually developing the TTPP model, which is a tactical, technical, physical and psychological model to help them profile their staff, actually, for long term development, for health and wellness, and then with some military groups as well, using the exact same profiling approach.

Dr. Cooper

It’s just so interesting how the consistency, like you said across athletes. But then, across military, across executives, across your neighbor, I mean, it’s just so interesting how it comes down to the core. All right, your Ted talk, really interesting. People that haven’t seen you, they gotta pull that one up. You have this quote in there, authentic people aren’t perfect. Perfect people aren’t authentic. Everyone can benefit from that message. But I think it’s particularly valuable to those of us that are in the health and wellness arena. Can you take us beyond the quotes on what this is really getting into?

Dr. Connolly

So somebody said to me before, you need to, you know, give a Ted talk about transitioning from a PhD and computers to working in elite sport and just your journey and about different aspects, different stories, things that have happened. The last thing I expected to be doing was giving a Ted talk about somebody who’s a coach in elite performance about themselves burning out. And that’s really where, you know, the Ted talk revolves around how I was working with, a group of special forces operators and they asked, you know, after teaching them you know about particular aspects of teamwork and culture and performance, I was asked, what was your greatest failure? And you know, I told a story about myself burning out, getting a DUI. And it was important for me because when I finished this story, the most senior officer looking looks straight across at me and said, yeah, that’s exactly what happens to us. And after it happened, I had so many very well known athletes, some of the most famous athletes in the country, actually, who I’d been fortunate to work with reached out to me and they shared stories of failure or screw ups that they had had that even I didn’t know and I’d worked with some of these very, very closely. And I realized that everybody screws up and everybody makes mistakes. Some of them you hear about, some of them you don’t. But that in itself is an important message, because today with social media, we are presented with images of perfections that says happiness constantly. And the illusions, particularly for younger people coming through, is that well, if you’re not happy and you’re not a millionaire, you’re not successful. And so it helped me share that. The story has helped me help so many people where I’ve been able to help people redefine what success really is for them.

Dr. Cooper

Alright, so in terms of human performance, that’s your specialty, let’s talk two different levels. And I’m sure there’s some overlap here, but some of the basics, when you’re helping somebody just get out of the gate, they’re coming to you after a long history of just kind of on cruise control and they come to you and say, Fergus, it’s time for me to step up. So they’re at the more basic level. And then at the elite level, someone that’s pretty dialed in. So this isn’t just the gifted athlete, but somebody who’s really dialed in and they’re looking for that last little, you know, 1 to 2%. Can you walk us through first, the basic. Where do you start? How do you start to integrate that for the, we’ll call them a newcomer. And then with that last 1 to 2% what does that involve?

Dr. Connolly

So what’s interesting is that very often with, and this might be a surprise, but with elite performers, very often they have certain things dialed in exceptionally well. So in some cases, I’ve had NFL linebackers come to me with very detailed dialed in diet and supplement programs. And so it’s recognizing, again, back to this idea of surfaces and gaps, what they’ve got very, very well tuned in. But in some cases they can be weaknesses, where they over focus on, for example, supplementation and they’re missing, some key things. So it’s, first of all about evaluating where they are strong, making sure that their strengths aren’t themselves becoming weaknesses themselves. Then secondly, helping identify what their needs are and their fears. So in some cases, athletes have a perception of something that they need to improve, and that’s driven, perhaps by a fear. So it might be that, you know, the contract or whatever is up with whatever company. So it’s recognizing what that fear is, but then truly helping them identify what the real need is. And those are two completely different things. Sometimes they have, like I say, a false perception of what it is that they need. So helping them recognize, and they have the answer. I don’t have the answer, but I can ask questions to identify truly what the need is. And then, helping them, you know, come to the conclusion, okay, this is really what I need to focus on, which is, you know, my long term health, my long term welfare. It may be in some cases, you know, a family issue, or it may be helping them recognize, you know, these are the things that are actually draining my energy and really helping them come to the conclusion and then have them create a program for by they can develop that, or work on that. And what you tend to find very often in elite performers in the sports field, sports arena, the physical qualities generally are pretty good, but some of them can have compensated by not doing a lot of rehab work. Or maybe the body is being held together because they’re able to compensate. So it’s helping identify maybe some physical things, but largely you find that over time it’s about helping them create a spiritual

Dr. Connolly

model for life. And I don’t necessarily mean from a faith perspective, but helping them recognize what’s really important to them in their life. Because very often, that’s irritating them deep down and that’s sometimes something that they struggle with because, and particularly now, and this will apply to your to your listeners. What you end up dealing with with high achievers are, that they have fallen to a pathway a career, a profession, a title, an expectation, of perfection and overachieving. But it’s very specialized, and they’ve neglected other areas of their life. And those are the areas that, it’s like hitting a speed bump or getting a flat tire at a very, very high speed. You know everything’s going fine until you hit that speed bump, hit a pot hole. Then things start to spin out of control. It’s having those other foundational pieces, a good lifestyle, good family, good network, good support. Those are the things that you need to sustain the elite performer over time. And I can acquit it, perhaps to an incredibly successful athlete who gets his 4th serious injury, and now is facing four months or six months of rehab away from the team. A lot of lonely time. That’s when the questions start to eat away at the, you know, at the athlete.

Dr. Cooper

And then for the person that’s just getting, and that is great, by the way, for the person that’s just waking up and saying, okay, I’m tired of average. It’s time for me to step up. Where do you start with them?

Dr. Connolly

With many of those people, a lot of it is about identifying the areas where they can make slow improvements. But first of all, you want to establish with them an actual vision of what they can achieve and understanding that, okay, this is where you want to get to. This is what it’s going to take, but helping them, you know, slowly develop over time, bringing that picture into fruition and saying okay, these are the stages that you’re going to have to undertake to get there, and making sure that the vision is reasonable and then we’re gonna bite it off in small chunks, and we’re gonna take care of it. But also, one just careful point is making sure that the vision is, you know, one that is wholesome and honorable, so to speak. So that, you know, this is something that you can genuinely support, that they’re doing it for the right reasons, so that you build sustainable success. You know, I could take anybody and drop body weight in X amount of time, very, very quickly. Or even drop body fat very, very quickly. But am I creating sustainable habits that are going to truly impact this person in a positive way and so they can continue when I’m not there to continue to make progress.

Dr. Cooper

Before I forget. What’s the best way for folks to follow you? This is fun, and I know people are sitting there going, I gotta keep track of this guy. I know you’re on Twitter. Is that the best way for people to follow up with you?

Dr. Connolly

Oh, yeah, Twitter is probably the easiest.

Dr. Cooper

And what is that?

Dr. Connolly

It’s Fergus_Connolly and yeah, or just go to my website FergusConnolly.com. But again, I think, for a lot of coaches, the biggest challenge I think that coaches have is recognizing, you know, the holistic nature of their impact and recognizing that, you know, I would have made this mistake, I’m sure everybody has done it. Somebody comes to you with an issue and before they’ve even finished explaining, you’ve got the answer straight to them. You know, you need to do this. You need to do that. I’ve learned over the years to take my time and let them talk themselves out. Because slowly you realize that, for example, if they come to you with a dietary issue, that very often is not the the core of the concern that they have. And then the other thing is drawing on, you know, experts like Dr. Singh, and others who you need to learn from. Learn from the specialist so that you could become a better generalist. Like David Epstein, he sent me a copy, a preview copy of his book Range. And I could have sworn it was a biography on my experience because, you know, like I said, early on, I studied nutrition supplementation, biomechanics, neurology, all of these different things to try and find solutions. And he was writing this book that was basically outlining how great high achievers have, yes, they have a specialty, but it’s built on this generalist foundation or in this generalist environment.

Dr. Cooper

We had a chance to interview David, oh, it’s been 3-4 months ago now. So same thing, I read an advanced copy and exactly what you said, that’s why I’m laughing because I felt like, oh, my gosh, he’s been following me around. This is psychotic. What’s going on here? So, yes.

Dr. Connolly

It’s incredible. And he’s you know, first of all, just like Dr Singh, he’s an incredible person, he’s been an incredible help me, personally, a wonderful guy. But his writing, And he even quoted Verner von Briar and that I’m going man, like this is just, these are all such different people and different inspirations. Really, really good. Really, really good guy. And a fascinating insight into, you know, performance. And in to how people really function into their society, because it is changing a lot as well, and I think that social media has some wonderful benefits. But some of the things we just need to be aware of is this the deluge of information and a lot of the, I don’t want to call them false, but perhaps inaccurate images that are are portrayed that influence the people that we work with.

Dr. Cooper

Okay, so two things, we’ll just build off this. We talked about your Twitter account, and I just read, you Tweeted out an article about the importance of consistent reading. We’ve just been talking about David’s book, outstanding book, Range. So good timing for this question. The statistics on reading are just, they’re just sad. I mean people, even if they buy a book, the fact that only a certain percent get through the 1st 3 chapters is just very low. So could you provide us a boost for those people that have good intentions? They say I enjoy reading, I want to read, but I just don’t. So for those that need a stronger why, for those who say, yeah, I don’t know about reading and maybe a strategy for making it a consistent part of their life. If you’ve seen something that has helped you or you’ve seen something with your clients that you’ve encouraged them, just give us some tips. Because I think there’s so much out there. You know, obviously they’re listening to podcasts like this to get that kind of information. But there’s so many valuable insights in these books, and we’re missing out. So a stronger why, you might be will help us with. And then maybe a little bit of a strategy on how to integrate that into our lives. If you have any tips along those lines.

Dr. Connolly

Yes, so you know I’ve opened up in one or two talks that I’ve given by describing myself as the world’s greatest thief. And, you know, one of the things that I stole from, you know, an article I think, no, it was a book I read about Michael Jordan was about to Phil Jackson giving books to his players and I stole that idea and I would do the same. Whether I was at Michigan or the San Francisco 49ers and I would give books to guys who I knew would read, others I would give short articles to. And I would try and pick articles, actually, that had extracts from books in the hope that they would inspire some guys, and some would and some wouldn’t. But it’s also important to recognize that not everybody wants to read, and that’s fine. So it’s understanding that in some cases we have to spend a lot of time on selling ideas and concepts. For me, personally, as a professional, I try and read, you know, not as much as I can. I read because I’m passionate about, you know, learning these different things. And I read lots of different styles of books, you know, like a book like David’s, whatever I’d read. But I’ve also purchased graphic novels to read them, to understand how and why some of them are so successful in getting their message across. And I’ve tried to read many different types of writing to understand why is this book so successful and others aren’t? And so very often I’d recommend to people short books starting, so that they see the value of reading. So, you know, one of the books that I recommend constantly is Who Moved My Cheese, which is an incredibly short book, you can read it in 30 minutes, and that has just a really simple message. People get the message and they go okay, and if they enjoy reading that, then I can start to introduce them to, you know, maybe a slightly longer book or to, you know, a book with a series of short stories or short anecdotes.

Dr. Connolly

And so I wrote Game Changer, I also wrote a second book called 59 Lessons. I’m not trying to sell the book, but they’re two completely different styles. The second book, 59 lessons is just a series of short stories. Because I realized that a lot of people read books that had short stories with a moral or a message, and I wanted to see, would it appeal to different demographics and different audiences. So my approach in helping and encouraging others is always try and find a book that I can use as a wedge to get them started and then slowly say, hey, you know, you might really like this story or this person’s story is actually similar to yours. And that’s what I’ve done with a lot of athletes and executives as well. And, you know, handing them, a huge, very thick book to start is generally not gonna work well, unless there an avid reader. And the other thing, you’d see articles from time to time that say that, this incredibly successful business person reads, you know, seven books a week or whatever. I just, I roll my eyes That’s like the guy’s saying well I sleep only three hours a night, well, okay, yeah, whatever. And so those are the kind of things that I think people find, I think that’s one of the things that I’m fortunate to be able to explain to people that, somebody will say, oh well this person does this or this person only does this or they never have a rest day or they listen. I can tell you the truth, and the truth is, a lot is, not a lot different, but there’s a reason. And here’s the rational and I’ve been there. I’ll never forget actually giving a talk in Boston a number of years ago and a the coach put his hand up and told me how the team that I was working with, were monitoring their players 24 hours a day using this particular technology. And, you know, I just told him I said, No, we don’t. And he said well I read it in this article and I said, Yeah, I read that article, too. And the journalist misunderstood what was being said. And it’s just fascinating how misinformation can, I think it’s Winston Churchill said that a lie gets around the world before the truth. Let’s have a chance to put its pants on. So,it’s always interesting to be able to help people understand what the reality really is.

Dr. Cooper

That’s fantastic. All right, just two more. Lets personalize the human performance journey a little bit. How are you applying your insights? The things you’re reading, the things you’re learning, the things you’re using in an area where you’re looking to optimize your own health and wellness?

Dr. Connolly

I think sleep, you know, is something that, and Dr Singh has been a huge help to me in improving the quality of my sleep. And I go to bed earlier. I do get up early still, but I enjoy getting up early. I’ve always gotten up early, there’s something about getting up and just getting my day organized, properly before, I don’t want to say before the sun comes up, because that sounds like bragging. It’s not that, but it’s just getting some some quiet time to myself. The other thing that I’ve started to do more of is to, before I go to bed, just have a look at what’s coming the following day so that I’m aware of it. I think the other thing that I’ve started to do a lot more of is to embrace, you know, failures or negative things because it’s something that I’ve learned over the years is that, you know, people talk about having gratitude and gratitude for positive things that have happened. For me, I spend a lot of time of in gratitude for negative events that happened because it allows me to embrace them and recognize that these are learning opportunities, they’re not failures. And that has had an incredible benefit for me.

Dr. Connolly

And it’s something that, you know, somebody drew it to my attention some time ago. They said, I was talking about something I’d screwed up and they were going yeah but, is this the first time you failed? And I’ve gone, no. And they said, well write down a list of all the failures, or things you regard, as failure. And I did. But as I was putting the list together, before he got back to them, I realized why they wanted me to do it was because I was having a very difficult time in actually truly identifying them as failures. Every time that something negative had happened or I thought at that time it was a negative thing. What happened afterwards was an opportunity which was another direction I went in that became incredibly successful. And so really, what happens, what we think are failures or setbacks are actually opportunities if you choose to see them as such, if that’s the most important point. And that’s something that I’ve been able to use with a lot of clients. Because now I work more in the corporate sector with clients, that has been incredibly beneficial for them. And helping them recognize as well, the difference between pleasure, happiness and contentment. Pleasure is fleeting. They’re fleeting moments of, for example, love or whatever. Happiness is, you know, you have happy days, you have down days. But we really should be striving for contentment, which is where, recognizing that, you know, there will be happy moments, there will be sad moments, but not fluctuating excessively within those moments, and finding that place of contentment,

Dr. Cooper

This is so good, loving this! Alright, last question, just wide open. Any final words of wisdom for those that are either trying to help others improve their health and wellness, or they’re just, they’re on this journey themselves and they’re listening to this because they’re looking for ideas. Just anything that I haven’t teed up with a question up to this point.

Dr. Connolly

Oh, well we can keep going. I think the important thing for people is to recognize, there are four things that I think are critical to all high achievers. And in my experience, this is something I’ve refined, particularly over the last two years. I think the first thing is, who are you? So there are these two very old philosophical questions. Who am I and why am I here? And that’s the first question, is that, who are you? What is your identity and that means recognizing what your strengths and limitations are. That doesn’t mean that you’re a good person or a bad person, it just means nobody’s perfect. So what are things you’re really, really good at? And, you know, protect them, bolster them. The things that you have limitations with, you gotta work on, and you gotta just recognize them. And by recognizing them, not running from your limitations, not running away from them, then you’ll find that’s one of the steps on the road to contentment.

Dr. Connolly

The second thing is recognizing what’s your true purpose? Like what is your superpower, so to speak. What are the things that, you know, on your death bed that you want to be recognized for? It’s probably not gonna be your bank account or, you know, the goal that you scored as a sophomore or whatever. So who are you? What’s your purpose? Why are you here? The third thing is this idea of a spiritual model. I’m not talking about faith or religion per se. But how do you explain the world to yourself? You know, because yes, science can explain a certain amount. But how do you explain the world? And one of those things is recognizing we’re not truly in control, which is a whole other area with high achievers. Because high achievers have generated an illusion in a small sphere of expertise that they’re in control, you’re not. You have a lot of expertise that allows you to increase the probability of success. But you’re never truly in control. And that’s something that high achievers forget over time. But anyway, that’s a whole other conversation.

Dr. Connolly

And the fourth thing, then is to love and be loved. Because nobody is an island. Nobody can exist on their own. So, in terms of your community, your tribe, your family. Those are the four key things. I think that people should strive to understand more of your identity, your purpose, your spiritual model, and you know, to love and be loved. And then, in terms of the practitioner, I think the most important thing is to truly enjoy learning and everything about human performance. I was fortunate or naive or stubborn enough just to be wonderfully interested in all these things. And I’ve realized that so many of them compliment my understanding of different things and not to become too specialized. So, I think that’s a nod to Range.

Dr. Cooper

Dr. Connolly, this is so fun. Great stuff. Thank you for joining us. Really appreciate it.

Dr. Connolly

Thank you very much for having me.

Dr. Cooper

A big thank you again to Dr Fergus Connolly. Just so many great insights. By the way, he shared a few times about having a clear vision, so so important. If you’re new to the podcast, we did have an episode that was completely devoted to the process of identifying and developing, clarifying that clear vision. So you may want to check that out. It came out on December 30th of 2019 and it might be worth a peek if that suggestion that he had resonated with you. For those of you who are already health and wellness coaches, have you heard about the Rocky Mountain Coaching Retreat and Symposium? It’s taking place in Estes Park, Colorado, September 18th through the 20th and it not only provides you with new coaching tools, CEUs, the typical things, but you will also have a great opportunity, it’s really a focus of the event to get that refreshment back, that rejuvenation, and recapture that passion that we had, hopefully still have, for coaching. We’ve dialed in the speakers and the agenda and the early registration rate is currently available for those who would like to join us. You can find all the details under the retreat tab at CatalystCoachingInstitute.com, or feel free to reach out to us anytime with questions, if you want to talk it through and find out what it’s all about. Results@CatalystCoachingInstitute.com. Now it’s time for better. Let’s do this. Pursuing better than yesterday in our own lives and helping those around us do exactly the same. Life is tough, folks, but together we can move toward better, one step at a time. Thanks for joining us. This is Dr Bradford Cooper signing off. Make it a great rest of your day and I’ll speak with you soon on the next episode of the Catalyst Health and Wellness Coaching Podcast.