Ray Goggins knows a thing or two about perseverance, and the theme of his talk in mid-November – ‘Building Resilience’ – was really fitting for a PorterShed community audience.
On the surface, it might not seem so, but entrepreneurs and Irish Defence Forces Rangers have a heck of a lot in common; they both push through when the odds are stacked against them, they each have immense self-belief, and they can both thrive even without much sleep.
Your typical start-up founder might drink a lot more coffee than a Ranger, but you get the point.
As a chief instructor on RTÉ’s Ultimate Hell Week programme, Ray Goggins has become something of a household personality, and he also served in the Irish Army for 26 years, including 17 years in the Army Ranger Wing as an operator and leader in a Tier 1 Special Operations Unit. His takeaways on building resilience, showing determination to achieve goals, and insights into the importance of mindset were fascinating to listen to.
Ray explained in depth about how resilience can be built up over time, in the same way that we nurture the strength of a muscle through practice and dedication.
Ray told the audience about a particular drill where contestants on the RTÉ show have to carry a heavy weight on a hike. He highlighted that it didn’t ever come down to how physical a person was, how fit they were, or how used to arduous training they were. For Ray, it all comes down to mindset and willpower. Many of the contestants he saw complete the task were simply dedicated to getting over the line, and they showed fantastic motivation and strength of character.
For many of Hell Week’s exercises – as it is with the US Navy Seals – people bark in your ear as you carry the weight without ever really knowing for sure whether you’re almost at the finish line, you just have to keep going.
For founders, it’s a similar story.
Carrying the weight of a new idea is not the easiest thing to do, especially as you start to grow a business. It might not always be clear how close you are to reaching your goals or how much further you have to go to achieve what you want from one quarter to the next, but as Ray Goggins explained, perseverance and self-belief are very much key to succeeding.
There were a lot of founders in the audience for Ray’s visit – and many of them were full of questions about what type of practical tips Ray could offer them.
“I sit at my desk all day long, and that can be an obstacle to motivation. What tips do you have that could solve that problem?” one person asked.
Ray was quick to offer practical tips. Getting up from the desk every now and then to stretch the legs and freshen the mind was a great workaround. Taking breaks and giving yourself the time to step away when needed were two other things Ray mentioned.
Another person asked about the difference between stopping and quitting. Founders are perseverant by nature, but as they like to foster a fail fast and learn quick mantra it can be energy-sapping and time-consuming to keep going when a project has gone awry or an objective has proved continually evasive. Often, they just want to know as soon as possible when they’re going down the wrong path.
For Ray, stopping is when you make a conscious decision to step away from a project, a plan, or a goal (and it could be that you return to it at a later date with a fresh perspective or a new approach). Quitting on the other hand is where you give up and you allow your mindset to get in the way.
Ray told the audience a fascinating anecdote about when he tried out for the Army Rangers years ago, highlighting that he failed to make the cut on his first attempt. For Ray, the reason he didn’t succeed came down to his mindset, and he explained that once he started to adopt the ‘mind over matter’ outlook, he was in a much better place. And, while it still took a gargantuan effort to get accepted the second time, Ray emerged successful the other side of a gruelling few weeks.
Founders are constantly seeking new ways to learn, find innovative ways to think about problems, and test themselves; this certainly builds resilience, but that resilience can be tested from day to day as things change fast and rules have to be re-written. However, if you subscribe to the Ray Goggins school of thought, you can train yourself to be more resilient, adapt to change in healthier ways, and ultimately have a more balanced outlook that serves you well in conquering your goals.
By Trevor Murray