If you could cast your mind back beyond a period of when you were a toddler, you would see a 6-month-old baby striving to walk. You would fail, and fall, again and again. Yet you would not be perturbed, not shamed by failure, not put off by the countless attempts you would make. You would go hundreds and perhaps thousands of time not knowing if you would succeed, but you would. Yet for some of us we lose that ability to have an overwhelming determination to succeed and not be put off by failure, to not be phased or shamed by failure. Why?
I started my talk as far back in my life as I could recollect. I had a troubled childhood where the worst things that can happen to a young boy, happened to me. Yet despite the physical punishment I grew strong mentally. This would prepare me for a life in the Armed Forces and later Special Forces (22 SAS). An important lesson for me was learning that I was the ‘gatekeeper of my emotions’ – I controlled how I felt, and nobody could impose that upon me. Control the controllable and trust the process.
The selection process for UK Special Forces is rigorous and from 196 candidates only myself and eleven others remained 6 months later. I was never at the front or even necessarily at the back, I was just somewhere in the middle trying to stay with the pack. I made a conscious effort not to compare myself with others but just do the best I could do and in fact you are always the ‘measure’ for yourself. Setting goals is important though, medium, short and long term and that has certainly helped me throughout the past year.
I talked through various missions I had been involved in ranging from the longest counter terrorism siege in UK history at Stansted in 2000. Operation Certain Death in Sierra Leone where I was in the recce team sent in to rescue five British Soldiers and described how after years of being a hostage negotiator and having rescued many hostages, I found myself one after being captured in Iraq. Being subsequently stripped, beaten, blindfolded and handcuffed it would take all my resilience to get through to the other side and eventually make it back to my base.
I left the SAS but took my experiences with me. Are there ‘tactics’ that civilian organisations can take something from? Absolutely.”