On a good day I am 170 centimetres tall (five foot seven). It’s fair to say that I’m not a tall man.
Growing up in suburban Melbourne, Australia I dreamed of being an Australian Rules footballer. Unfortunately I forgot to get in the queue for skills and talent when I was being made! So I didn’t have much natural talent when it came to sport. That said I loved sport and coupled with being a determined little fellow I made the best of what I did have and played and coached Australian Rules football until I was 30 years old.
Dreams, however, have a funny way of coming true. As a result of my professional career in November 2006 I was invited by Ray Mclean, a founding director of Leading Teams Australia to be interviewed by Kane Johnson, then the captain of the Richmond Tigers and some of his fellow Leadership Team members about taking on the role of mentoring Kane and facilitating a program for the leadership group at Richmond.
Despite having many years of public speaking and leadership facilitation behind me I remember feeling extremely nervous as I drove to Swan Street in Richmond for our meeting that day. Who was I, this guy who was a ‘battler’ at best to tell these elite athletes about leadership? What had I gotten myself in to! I kept thinking to myself.
My negative self-talk was making me more and more nervous. You know the feeling. I started to feel sick in the stomach. Maybe I should cancel the meeting, after all I clearly don’t feel well. My mind was racing.
But then the skills that I had developed over time, which was one of the reasons why I had been asked to take on this job, kicked in.
I can do this. I am good enough. I do know a lot about leadership. Just be yourself. If they don’t like you, that’s okay. Not everybody has to like you. Just be yourself, listen to them and be honest in your answers.
As I got out of my car I was still nervous but I felt more in control of the situation and more in control of my mind.
Walking toward the cafe where we were to meet I kept saying to myself, Walk tall Gazza, walk tall!
No doubt that may seem strange coming from a man only 170 centimetres tall. But it summed up all of my positive self-talk. I felt a sense of calm in terms of preparing to meet these champions of the game. Ray Mclean had confidence in me so why shouldn’t I! If it turns out that I’m not the right person for the job, then that’s okay. It doesn’t make me less of a human being.
Needless to say the meeting went well and I ended up mentoring Kane and working with the Richmond Leadership group, the coaches and the playing list. In fact, I sat in the coach’s box in the 2007 Round 1 game versus Carlton and had the opportunity to stand in the middle of ground before the game, at the quarter-time and at three-quarter time. There was a crowd of nearly 80,000 in the Melbourne Cricket Ground and here I was standing in the middle of it. While I wasn’t a player, I was there as a professional! In fact, I was being paid to be there.
I teach people that it is important to let your dreams come true via a thousand pathways. Life is too complex to limit yourself to a single route toward success. Constructive self-talk, as demonstrated by my story is critical along this journey. I don’t believe that it is possible to 100% eliminate negative self-talk. I do believe that when negative self-talk occurs then you have the power and control to change it to something more constructive so you can take whatever action you need to create the success you desire. This may be relevant when you are going for a job interview, a promotion, delivering a presentation, speaking with senior executives or starting an exercise program. Learning to master your self-talk is a strategy that enhances success and will enable you to bring your dreams into reality.
Gary Ryan enables leaders and their teams to move Beyond Being Good™.