How far can discomfort take you with Mark Mathews

Aug 06, 2021

Riding 50-foot waves and speaking in front of large crowds taught Mark Mathews that the best way to find success and fulfilment in his business and relationships is to push through the fear, exude authenticity and feel the thrill. Tune in for more on tackling discomfort and leveraging it to find new opportunities.

In this episode Brendan Hill talks with a special guest that has something a bit different to offer our SME marketers and businesses. Our guest is pro surfing legend, Mark Mathews.

Mark has made a living achieving the unfathomable: crossing the intersection of danger and excitement. He knows all too well the crippling grasp of fear.

While in Tasmania, fifteen feet in front of a cliff in cold, shark infested waters, Mark hit a reef and instantly blacked out. Terror engulfed every inch of his being. Neck braced and hospital-ridden, he didn’t know if he could ever surf again. At that moment, Mark made a decision never to allow fear to overpower him again.

With his presentation business ” Life Beyond Fear” has him deconstructing, fine-tuning, and personalizing emotional resilience techniques to successfully strengthen one’s mindset and sustain long term performance.

These techniques have helped him win an unprecedented three consecutive Oakley Big Wave Awards and cement him as one of the best big waves surfers in the world.

In this episode you will learn:

  • How Mark overcomes the fear of surfing 50-foot waves and how you can apply these techniques to areas of your business
  • How to get out of your comfort zone to get the experience you need to create that new comfort zone where new opportunities lie
  • How to build a personal brand
  • How Mark became a world-class keynote speaker when he couldn’t even speak in front of a room of people at the beginning
  • Advantages of keeping your pitches raw and unpolished
  • How to make your business more authentic and attract customers
  • Why having a high level of authenticity in every aspect of your business increases your chances of success
  • How to improve your presentation skills
  • Why you need to have a plan in place for all business scenarios
  • The powerful moment that changed Mark’s mindset after being told by doctors that he’d never surf again
  • The importance of building your own audience
  • How studying standup comedy can make you a better public speaker

Resources Mentioned:

Quotes:

  • “When you push yourself through that fear and anxiety, usually the experience, feeling, result or success on the other side feels like that Holy Grail. You get that intrinsic reward and the external rewards that make it feel like a Holy Grail –  like life’s worth living”
  • “Talk to your audience like you’re talking to one person, like you’re talking to a friend and carry that tone” 
  • “Match it to how you would just speak to a close friend, because you speak to your closest friends with the most authenticity” 
  • “When you build your own audience you become like a small marketing agency yourself”
  • “There will be people that enjoy watching you do what you do. That’s my model. Just stick to what you like. It’s too tiring trying to be someone that you’re not”

What Business would you build on Mars?

“It would have to be indoor wave pools. And surfing sells itself. All you got to do is offer a few free surf lessons and when people experience that feeling, what else is there going to be to do on Mars than ride a few waves? It will sell itself.”

Get in touch with Mark:

Transcript (download the pdf here

Brendan:
Mark, welcome to the show.

Mark:
Thanks for having me, Brendan.

Brendan:
You have an amazing LinkedIn profile, that’s where I first found out about you. Can you tell us more about big wave surfing?

Mark:
Big wave surfing, I mean, that’s my life. It’s been my life for the last 15 years. It was my avenue to build a career out of the sport of surfing, even though I wasn’t quite good enough or talented enough to be a competitive or a world champion level surfer.

Brendan: Right.

Mark:
It was just this different avenue that I found that I could manufacture myself a career out of the sport that I loved.

Brendan:
Wow. When did you come to the realization that you could follow your passion and make that your career?

Mark:
It happened when I was about 20, so I was working, actually, here in Sydney, down at Darling Harbor, making coffees and cocktails at night. Out of the blue, I got asked to go on a surf trip down to Tasmania to surf a new wave that had been getting talked about in the industry. It was being heralded as one of the biggest and scariest waves that another had ever seen.

Brendan: Wow.

Mark:
And no one had really photographed it at that point in time. And no part of me wanted to go and surf it, because I’d never really surfed big waves and I was absolutely terrified when I got the call. And it was funny because I couldn’t figure out why they were calling me because I was kind of a no one in the industry of surfing.

Brendan: Right.

Mark:
I found out down the track they probably called about 30 or 40 other surfers before they got to my name at the bottom of the list. Everyone politely declined because the waves sounded so scary, but I didn’t have the chance of saying no. If I had said no, I would never have got my career off the ground because at that point, I didn’t have the major sponsorships. Anyway, I went down to Tasmania, one thing lead to another and I ended up surfing waves bigger than I’d ever surfed before in my life.

Brendan: Wow.

Mark:
And the photos and footage of that trip went around the world and I got my first surfing sponsorships and then that basically gave me the blueprint of what I needed to do to make a career, it was travel around the world, chase down the biggest waves I could find, surf them, create content, let that content get in the media and based on the media value, I’d get the sponsorship dollars.

Brendan:
Wow. So how big are these waves that we’re talking about?

Mark:
Down in Tasmania, that first time, it was in the 15 to 20 foot range, but the way the waves break down there is what makes them so spectacular and dangerous. So super deep water waves breaking on a really shallow rock ledge, which magnifies the power and the spectacular nature of the waves. To me, way more dangerous than say, if I go and surf waves in excess of 50 feet, but break in deep water, while they look and are a whole lot bigger, it’s nowhere near as dangerous or spectacular.

Brendan:
So in terms of taking that first step, I know that one of your mantras is life beyond fear, the other side of fear. So taking that first step. A good example, I just finished watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade on Netflix and when he’s walking over that invisible gap to get the Holy Grail-

Mark:
I know the one.

Brendan:
Yeah, it’s that first step. And I can imagine these massive waves passing by and 15, 20 feet, I mean, up to 50 feet, as you say. Can you tell us more about that first step and how to overcome fear? Because I mean, it has parallels in business as well. That first step is always the hardest.

Mark:
100%. And that’s the interesting thing, because as scary as big wave surfing is, and the thought or the reality of maybe drowning, for me, I find public speaking and keynoting that I do now more stressful. I get more anxiety from it, it wears me down more than big wave surfing ever did.

Brendan: Wow.

Mark:
So that’s where the corelation is between what action sports people do and what business people do because fear is fear. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a fear of physical danger or harm or a fear of failure or not being good enough or making mistakes. The way your body reacts is exactly the same. So across the board, I think that’s where the relationship is. And then like you said, the Indiana Jones reference is perfect.

It’s like the steps across the invisible bridge to the Holy Grail, in my head, it’s so terrifying to get out of your comfort zone to get the experience you need to create that new comfort zone where the opportunities are, whether in business or in the sport of surfing. But when you do that and you push yourself through that fear and anxiety, usually the experience or the feeling or the result or the success on the other side feels like that Holy Grail. You get that intrinsic reward and the external rewards that make it feel like a Holy Grail, like life’s worth living when you push yourself like that.

Brendan:
Yeah. It’s interesting that you say that you get more anxiety now about public speaking than big wave surfing, validating what Jerry Seinfeld always says, “Public speaking is the number one human fear, followed by death at number two.” Big wave surfing, I can imagine, wouldn’t be far behind these monster swells.

Mark:
Yeah, I think Jerry is definitely right. For an introvert, anyway, I’m highly introverted, so public speaking is the scariest thing in life for me.

Brendan:
So what made you jump into public speaking after your career in big wave surfing?

Mark:

I had a sponsor who sponsored me from when I was in my early twenties, his best friend was in the world of corporate training and had a background climbing mountains and brought that to the business world and then he had said to me, years ago, in my early twenties, that this is the career path that you should look to take while you’re still big wave surfing, so that you can build it then and then be able to carry it on down the track when I’m 50, when I can’t surf big waves anymore. 60, maybe. I’m pushing for 60.

Mark:
And at the time, I was like, “There’s no way I’m ever doing that” because for me, I couldn’t even stand in front of a classroom when I was a kid and read from a book, I would stutter so bad, I’d have so much anxiety, so it took a lot for me to be able to do it. Spent untold amounts of money doing every speaking course under the sun.

But eventually, it was exactly like learning to surf big waves, the exposure and the experience just builds up and then you build that new skill set so that it doesn’t matter who you stand in front of, who I’m standing in front now, I’ve got the tools and the skills to dig into my bag and perform on stage and I don’t have to feel too anxious about it now but originally, it was tough.

Brendan:
Yeah. Do you remember your first big keynote speech?

Mark:
I do. I was in Hawaii and it was for an insurance company and I got offered the talk two weeks before the event and I didn’t have a keynote at all.

Brendan: Wow.

Mark:
So I wrote the keynote in the two weeks before. The only person I said it in front of was my mom.

Brendan: Wow.

Mark:
And I did the keynote in front of her and she actually features in the keynote because she’s one of my big motivators in life to be successful. And she had a tear in her eye when I told her and that was kind of enough, I was like, “Okay. We’ll see how it goes.” And if I look back on the delivery of the keynote that I gave, the delivery was very average, but the bed of the keynote has almost stayed exactly the same. That’s what I deliver today. And the feedback that I got from the audience was amazing, off that first keynote.

Brendan:

Right.

Mark:
I had the bosses say, “This is what you’ve got to do in life.” And they just enjoyed, I think, the fact that I was so raw and real on stage because I had no other choice but to be that way. And it wasn’t really too polished.

Brendan: Right.

Mark:
And I’ve always taken that as I’ve gone on in keynote speaking, never to become that over-polished speaker that’s talking to a track, because I think for the audience, you have to remember that they’re seeing you for the first time, they want it to be real. Even though I’m telling the same thing that I’ve told a thousand times, it needs to feel real in that moment and the connection has to be real with the audience for them to even remotely take in what you’re going to say.

Brendan:
Yeah. It’s a interesting point that you touch on there, authenticity. So I guess that’s part of your brand, being really authentic and not being too polished. I mean, when we go on social media feeds, like on Instagram, everyone is looking very polished. How can businesses become more authentic and tell their real story and start to, like yourself, really resonate with their audience?

Mark:
Ah, man, I think it takes courage to do that and it’s tricky for businesses. When you have all these insurance factors and regulators and all this stuff hanging over the top of you and then investors, and depending on what size business you’re running, to really let people know authentically what’s happening within the business, where you’re planning to go and all that, it takes courage, but I find that if you looked into some case studies on it, it is worth while to do.

And especially small businesses and small business owners needing the motivation to do what they’re going to have to do to be successful in small business, which is such a small amount of people pull that off, the authenticity level has to be there where you have to really love what you’re doing and believe in it and there has to be deep meaning in what you’re doing for you to go that extra level to the extent that you need to to be successful.

So this authenticity on both aspects is how you run your business internally, but then how you speak to your customers, I think, both of them take some courage, but worth while.

Brendan:
And in terms of speaking to customers, you touched on presentation skills. Obviously very important in every day business. People are presenting on the phone, presenting in their content marketing, for example. What sort of tips can you give early stage businesses

listening on at home? Obviously, you had to learn from the ground up with your presentation skills for your keynotes. You did a lot of courses. People just starting now or wanting to improve their presentation skills, where do they start?

Mark:
I think the best tip that I got as far as tone, when you talk to someone, is that talk to your audience like you’re talking to one person, like you’re talking to a friend and carry that tone. And you’ve got to practice it and then watch yourself on video and see if you’re carrying that tone because it’s really hard to do initially, because when the camera’s in front of you or the audience is in front of you, naturally, the anxiety shifts you into a different tone with the way you’re speaking to people. But I think if you go back and watch what you look like and then try and match it to how you would just speak to a close friend, because you speak to your closest friends with the most authenticity, you know?

Brendan: True. Yeah.

Mark:
And then if you can keep that tone, I think that helps a lot. And then by far, the most important thing is to be prepared. Unbelievably prepared. Nothing beats the fear of public speaking like preparation. You’ve going to have, for me, it’s the same as surfing. So when I go and surf big waves, I’m ready for every worse case scenario that could possibly happen. I have a really detailed plan put in place.

For example, if I blacked out under water and I had to be resuscitated, they had to restart my heart and then I had to call for a helicopter, we have the whole plan in place. So it takes some of that fear and that apprehension that you get in your mind in the lead up to scary moments away because I’m prepared for it. So the same way, if I’m going to do a keynote this afternoon, for WordPress, actually, here in Sydney, everything that could go wrong, I know exactly what to do.

The whole power can shut off and I have to do my presentation without any photos or footage or anything like that, but I’m ready to do that.

Brendan: Amazing.

Mark:
Or if my mind goes blank, which it does in front of an audience, if something happens, I’ve got a line and a story where I can go straight into at any point in my presentations.

Brendan:
It’s a good idea. Yeah.

Mark:
Yeah. And then give myself the time to get back on track, so overly prepared is the key to

dealing with that kind of fear.

Brendan:
And speaking of scary moments, what was the scariest moments in your big wave surfing career?

Mark:
I’ve had a recent one where I dislocated my knee surfing down the South Coast of Sydney, five hours South of here. I hit the reef on about a 10 foot wave and completely dislocated my knee, tore every ligament and tendon.

Brendan: Wow.

Mark:
Tore the major artery that runs through my leg. Major nerves. The pain that I experienced when I did that, I knew that something really bad had happened. And then to wake up the following morning in hospital after emergency surgery, and I was basically told that I was going to have a disability where I can’t move my foot, I can’t lift my foot anymore for the rest of my life.

Brendan: Wow.

Mark:
So it was the doctors telling me, “Your surfing career is over.”

Brendan: Right.

Mark:
So that, by far, was the scariest, hearing that news was the scariest thing that I’ve been through within surfing. But managed to prove them wrong and I’m getting my surfing career back on track. It’s taken me about two and a half years, but it’s getting there.

Brendan:
Wow. So can you talk us through that mindset from being told you’ll never surf again to rebuilding your career?

Mark:
I have to admit, the first six weeks to two months when I was stuck in hospital in the big metal frame brace, with my big wounds from the surgery on my leg and I couldn’t get out of bed at all in the worst pain I’ve felt, nerve pain, by far, I’ve had almost every other injury you

can do, broken bones and stuff, but nothing compares to nerve pain. And yeah, in that two months I got really depressed. Not on the level of depression like suicidal depression, that’s something completely different, but depressed in that I didn’t want to see anyone. I’d given up hope of surfing again.

Brendan: Wow.

Mark:
I wasn’t sleeping because of the pain or they’d give me ridiculous amounts of medication to try and combat the pain, so it was that. All these things just lead to me being so unbelievably unhealthy, physically and mentally. It’s interesting because it wasn’t until, I’d like to say I just snapped myself out of it, but I didn’t.

It wasn’t until I actually met a young guy in hospital who reached out to me on social media. And he said, “I’ve been following your career since I was young. Big fan. I’d love to come up and meet you and get a photo.” Because he read that I was in Canberra Hospital and he was actually in there. And I didn’t want to see anyone, so I didn’t even reply. It was my wife who saw the message and wrote back to him and said, “Yeah, no worries, come up and get a photo.”

Mark:
So this kid comes up probably three hours after I’d seen the message. He gets wheeled into my bedroom by his brother, he’s a complete quadriplegic and had broken his neck about six months before I hurt myself and the moment that I shook Jason, his name was, hand, and I don’t know if you’ve shook someone’s hand who’s a quadriplegic, it’s confronting. They can’t control their arm, anything. And he stuck out his arm with a big grin on his face. And the moment that I shook his hand, it was the craziest shift that I’ve ever had experienced in my life where my perspective or mindset about what I was dealing with did a complete 180.

Mark:
So I went from being really angry, full of self-pity for what had happened to me, blaming other people, the victim of this wipeout and this injury and just done with it to just feeling like the luckiest person on Earth because if I’d had hit that reef any other part of my body, I could have so easily been dealing with what he was dealing with. And his injury’s a million times worse than mine and he’s dealing with it that much better. So I was overcome with gratitude, feeling lucky. And from that moment onwards, it was like that feeling of feeling lucky about my situation was the catalyst to get me back on track. Everything fed on from there.

Brendan: Wow.

Mark:
And now, two years later, after all the rehab, I’ve figured out how to surf good enough with

the disability that I can get back out into big waves. But I think meeting him and that shift in mindset was the saving grace for me in dealing with that.

Brendan:
That’s an amazing story. So tell us about the first time after this accident that you got back on the surf board.

Mark:
I surfed a couple of times, probably a year down the track, but I would barely call it surfing, compared to what I’ve been doing. It was on a longboard, I could only just stand up. I could barely turn the board and at that moment, I was like, “It’s nice to be surfing again, but this is … It’s nice to be out in the ocean and the water, but it’s not really surfing for me.”

It took about another eight months after that to where I rode a wave and got my first barrel, say inside the barrel and caught a wave. Not a big wave, just sort of eight foot wave on the Gold Coast and that moment was just a game changer for me. All the hard work paid off because I could surf good enough just to do that, to get barrelled. It wasn’t big waves and get my career on track, but that was enough.

I was like, “If this is it, then that’s fine.” But then, my surfing ability just kept getting better and better after that, just up until about six weeks ago, I got to compete in the Red Bull Cap Fear event, a big wave surfing event down in Tasmania at that first wave that went to and I got my first big barrel there and that was the icing on the cake. That’s two and a half years of rehab. Yeah, it was a good journey.

Brendan:
Yeah, amazing journey. And can you speak more on your mom being a major point of motivation in your life?

Mark:
Yeah. She’s just on two different levels, but she’s always been the type of person who has that internal reflection and thinks about who she is, what she’s like and how she can be better, and she’s always had that. She eventually does a lot of meditation and has lived in ashrams around the world and became a yoga teacher, so I think that rubbed off on me.

How valuable it is to know yourself. Figure out who you are and try and work on your flaws and be better. So I think that rubbed off on me a lot. And then the other part is that I’ve just always wanted to, down the track, when she retires, support her, be able to buy her a house one day. It’s the image that I always use in my head.

Before I’m about to do something scary or when I got to get up early and go to training or when I’ve got to say no to eating that shit food and eat this boring food. All those things, I’ve just got this clear picture in my head of the day I get to buy her a house and I can see the excitement and that big smile on her face in those moments. So it’s those two parts that she’s only inspiring to me.

Brendan:
Yeah, amazing. So focusing on your business, now. Your brand that you’ve built for yourself and you mentioned that you went around the world chasing content. So talk us through, I

guess, your content strategy. You got the footage of you surfing the big waves. What did you do next?

Mark:
Yeah. It was interesting because from the start of my career, it went through the whole digital media revolution.

Brendan: Oh, really?

Mark:
The first surf trip we did was on film, with cameras and photos. And then it was just going out into mainstream newspapers and stuff. And then we just tracked through the whole evolution of digital media in that time. So it’s like having one of the first blogs in surfing that people could follow.

Brendan: Wow.

Mark:
Because in my head, I had to make up for a lack of talent as a surfer by having the business smarts and how I could get the exposure and then that would make me as valuable as the other more talented surfers out there. That was what I always had, I was always looking for different things of how I could do that.

And the digital media revolution was the game changer because then it wasn’t up to the print media and surf magazines who had a stranglehold on the industry on who was successful. When you build your own audience and then you could show them and you’ve got your own audience, you become like a small marketing agency yourself.

Brendan: Yeah.

Mark:
So by having that business smart, I controlled my destiny a little bit more. And yeah, I think it made that career, I could extend it longer also as well. So yeah, there are so many nuance things within that, how you do it, but it’s the same core principle. Just show people what I love about what I do. Show them that and there’s that many people out there on social media in the digital world.

There will be people that enjoy watching you do what you do. That’s what’s my model. Just stick to what you like. It’s too tiring trying to be someone that you’re not. I could have gone down that path and you try and do the things that people like or that the big celebrities are doing, but to me, that seemed exhausting. It’s just like, just show what you love about surfing and then see if people like it.

Brendan:
Yeah. It comes back to your point about talking to your best friends when you’re doing your keynote.

Mark: Yeah.

Brendan:
Focusing on that one person.

Mark:
Exactly. Yeah and then it keeps you authentic in a way.

Brendan:
And what channels are you using at the moment? Have you gone head first into video content as well? I imagine a lot of GoPro footage and …

Mark: Yeah.

Brendan:
Is live streaming possible in big wave surfing?

Mark:
It is. GoPro is a major sponsor of mine. I’ve always worked with them and that was just about me wanting to use the best cameras for what we did in action sports. I was always so interested in how can I make my audience get as close to this experience as possible as what I get inside the barrelling part of the wave. If you can help them try and experience that. The tiny point of view camera is where you can give that field and then the GoPro Fusion that shoots the 360 and virtual reality type content, they’re awesome tools to be able to do that.

And then on the live streaming front, when the technology became where it became possible to be able to set up these high production live feeds at the drop of a hat, because the difference in surfing as a sport, in big wave surfing as a sport, compared to say, live streaming a football game is what we do is all weather dependent. So I teamed up with Red Bull in that regard to create Red Bull Cape Fear, a big wave surf event.

Brendan: Right.

Mark:
And it’s the only company that, again, has set aside that kind of financial amount on the possibility that we may get big enough waves that year to run an event. I couldn’t find, there was no other company out there that would just go, “Yeah, here’s this much money” even

though the event might not happen. You might only have a 50/50 chance of it happening. Yeah, so now we’re able to do that in remote locations, so we could do that down in Tasmania, which is in the middle of nowhere where this wave breaks.

Brendan: Wow.

Mark:
And we streamed it live to, I think, the numbers ended up being about 1.5 million people across a live feed and the first replay because it happens just when it happens, so people aren’t prepared for it.

Brendan: Right.

Mark:
We give them a 24 hour window.

Brendan: Okay.

Mark:
Because that’s when we got to take that the event’s going to happen and then we send the production crews in, so yeah, that’s been an interesting experience. I think that’s been the latest frontier in regard to that digital media revolution and the way to bring surfing and big wave surfing to people.

Brendan:
Yeah, that’s an amazing strategy. And what’s next? What problems are you working on now in your business?

Mark:
For me, because I’ve been injured for the last couple of years, my main focus is keynote speaking in the corporate training world and establishing myself within there and really researching what companies and their employees and everyone needs to manage that hectic paced life of that corporate world. Because there’s that sort of disconnect where companies want so much out of their employees.

They want them to work ridiculous hours and the employees are getting burned out because of that but the world’s so competitive that if you don’t put up with that burnout, you’ll lose your job because someone else will put their hand up and try and take it on. And so it’s how can I equip those employees to still do the workload or the hours but not be as drained or affected by it? So it’s how can you take on that and not have it rule their life where it destroys their relationships and their personal life? And I think that’s, at the moment, within the corporate world, the Holy Grail of figuring

that complex web of its meaning for the employees to want to take on all the stress, they have to find that meaning and the company has to align with them to be able to do that. And then the physical aspect of being able to cope with the crazy work hours, so there’s that physical element, whether it’s diet, exercise, sleep, those parts.

Mark:
And then the relationship aspect of their work relationships and their personal relationships because that emotional side and that relationship side is the other big part of taxing you as a human. So it’s a complex web, but I love it. For me, human performance on any level is amazing.

I originally loved the freak performers who were the world champions at a given sport and how they did what they did, but the more you dive into that, it’s like, usually once they’re best of the best at something, they’re freakishly genetically talented, which isn’t that interesting to me.

And then if they’re not really good at one thing and really good at something completely different, then it’s like the tools they’re using to be good at one thing might not be transferrable to anyone else.

Brendan: Right.

Mark:
Yeah. But when you see people that can go and be the highest level in one aspect of life and another aspect of life and another aspect of life, it’s like whatever’s working there is then transferrable. And that’s what I’ve tried to find with surfing.

I can conquer fear in the world of surfing, but do those same techniques and rules apply to public speaking or to developing business or to just all these other aspects of life? So I’ve just been testing them and I’m slowly coming up and still tweaking different programs and workshops for corporate.

I deliver a keynote which is more on the inspirational side and then a more detailed workshop, where if I can get anywhere from three to six hours with an audience, then you can deep dive into it and make more lasting changes with people than a keynote can.

Brendan:
Yeah. And how do you find these companies to do the workshops, are they through their keynotes?

Mark:
Yes. There’s lots of work out there for keynote speakers, if you’re a half decent keynote speaker, the companies are coming knocking at your door.

Brendan: Wow.

Mark:
And that’s been the case, but because it’s such a short amount of time, the companies don’t mind giving you that little bit of time with the audience, because it’s not as big an investment for them. Because the money that they pay you is not the expense, it’s the investment of having a hundred employees sit there listening to you and they’re not doing whatever other work they’re supposed to be doing.

So to then ask for three hours or six hours or a multi-tiered program over a year, where you make a radical culture change in a company, that’s a big investment, money-wise and time-wise for them. So yeah, you’ve got to give to get, so it’s like, “Here, we’ll do it for you like this for a lesser amount and you’ll see the results.” And then now I’ve got the testimonials from certain companies, then the other companies can come aboard because they can believe what you’re doing.

Brendan:
Yeah. And can you tell us any stories of the changes in culture and the results that you’ve seen in some of these companies?

Mark:
Yeah. To me, the interesting ones or the radical ones are usually the stress reduction ones, that’s huge, and where you dive into stress programs. But then, if that’s the main set of programs that you’re doing, but then the offshoot of managing stress and creating resilience is say, a workshop around how to have tough conversations in an organization.

Because that, to me, is probably one of the main relationship emotional factors that drain people in companies because there’s animosity being carried around by employees because they’re not speaking up and they can’t have a tough conversation with their boss or with their peers without rubbing people the wrong way. And then they just live in this world of constant stress and social pressure.

Brendan:
Yeah, the conflict avoidance.

Mark:
Yeah. So we built, a company called Pragmatic Thinking, that I work closely with, they’ve got the best tough conversation program or workshop that I’ve seen. I can do a keynote, have all this stress reduction stuff and bring them and we’ll do a tough conversations piece there.

Brendan: Great.

Mark:
And then you see radical shifts because just that small number of skills, if you can criticize someone without tearing their whole ego apart, there’s an amazing ride along effect from that because you can then give criticism without destroying someone. And then that just plays out. And once a whole number of people in your team can do that, the culture change in a year’s time and the progression as far as the way the team works shifts hugely.

Brendan:
Yeah. That’s amazing. So speaking of tools now, I like to ask all the guests that come on what marketing tools they use for their business. So what’s been the best investment that you’ve made tool-wise?

Mark: Marketing-wise?

Brendan:
Yeah, marketing-wise.

Mark:
Outsourcing with Upwork, for me, having a really small business, is amazing. The talent of people out there around the world that you can access at the drop of a hat is phenomenal. So probably that, as an outsourcing tool. I probably shouldn’t say this, but I had a LinkedIn helper tool that was phenomenal.

Brendan: Oh, yeah.

Mark:
But I think it might have just got shut down recently, so I have to go back to the old way of running LinkedIn. But yeah, any of those tools that can automate things that you do but automate them in a way that it doesn’t seem like things are being automated, then it’s super valuable.

Brendan:
Yeah. And are you a big reader, Mark?

Mark:
More listen. I like podcasts. I do like to read, but I just recently did an IQ test and my language comprehension skills are so low. It’s ridiculous. So reading for me is time consuming whereas I love to listen to different podcasts and especially when you can get two experts debating on something, I find that the most valuable way to learn.

Brendan:
So more of the longform podcasts?

Mark:
Definitely longform podcasts or lecture series. A lot of universities and professors out there put their lecture courses online, like on YouTube, so you can access almost anything these days.

Brendan: Yeah.

Mark:
And there’s amazing learning platforms, like MasterClass and a whole bunch of other ones. To read is amazing if you’re a good reader because it’s really good for your imagination as well, but to just be able to have the highest end quality YouTube learning video or MasterClass platform or whatever like that that can just teach you through five different mediums at once, for me, that’s way more beneficial. Yeah.

Brendan:
Yeah, I was on MasterClass yesterday, actually, some amazing courses.

Mark:
Amazing stuff, yeah. I think I did one of the value ones. I did Steve Martin’s comedy one.

Brendan: Oh, wow.

Mark:
Just for public speaking. And when you see the way they break apart jokes in telling jokes, you can then learn to refine the way you would deliver a keynote because the emphasis on how much … I heard Jerry Seinfeld say this too. He can spend a week on one line.

Brendan: Yeah.

Mark:
Writing and re-writing one line and pausing in different places and it can make or break a joke. So as a keynote speaker, if you can dive into that level of detail on what you deliver, it’s interesting. But you just got to be bothered to give it the time.

Brendan:
Yeah. And I know Seinfeld has another statistic, I think it’s one week for every one minute of content.

Mark:
Oh, that’s perfect. Perfect.

Brendan:
How long does it take you to do one minute of one of your keynote presentations, preparation-wise?

Mark:
It would depend, it would be in that realm, but I find, for me, the preparation and learning is every time I deliver a keynote, then watching it and then re-structuring some part of it. Yeah, it would be in that realm, I reckon. Probably less. I think comedians, it’s so much harder than, I think, any other form of entertainment.

Brendan:
Well, you have to get a laugh every 15 secs, I think it is.

Mark:
Yeah. I think that’s the hardest version of entertainment there is. They’re re-working a minute, compared to what I do with keynote because I can tell a story and there’s five or 10 minutes of content and I don’t have to spend that much time to get that story, I bet it does make a difference when you get some detail in there and do some work on the delivery.

Brendan:
And what about online education, is that an area that you’ve looked at for your workshops, for example?

Mark:
Yeah. I’ve built, just recently, for a client, a big software company, a video learning series.

Brendan: Right.

Mark:
The feedback from that’s been awesome. Yeah, it was a big investment, so it was just because the client specifically wanted it that I ended up going down that track. I was thinking more in a future plan of what I’m doing, I would do that, but I just ended up doing it because the client wanted it. And they really liked it. And it’s matching a simple lesson that works across the board, whether it’s in the corporate world or what I do as a surfer to a surf story.

Brendan: Right.

Mark:
So it’s just an entertaining way for them to see the same lesson that they’re going to see on any other learning platform or internally, they see it all the time, but when you can match a surf story to it and what’s going on in the business ecosystem of professional surfing, it just anchors the message a little more. It’s a good way to bring a different world to it and then for me, I know it’s working with a client is when the staff start using surf examples for what they’re doing. It’s like, “Ah, this is just like when Mark decided to chase a virtual reality

opportunity over going to chase a new market production in China for a new sponsor.” It’s like these scenarios, so if they’re talking in that way, I’m like, “Yes, that’s working.”

Brendan:
So Mark, wanted to thank you so much for coming on. Wide ranging conversation. So many inspiring stories and tactics as well.

Mark: Thanks.

Brendan:
But before we go, we like to ask our guests two abstract questions. So are you ready for abstract part of the show?

Mark:
Yeah, my dumb brain is trying to figure out what abstract means. That’s my language problem in the IQ world. But yeah, fire away.

Brendan:
So the first question, if you could have a billboard, it can be anywhere in the world, what would it say and where would you put it?

Mark:
What would it say? Oh, man, I had this quote I read on the plane this morning. It’s something like, is high performance is more like a cobweb than it is an organizational chart? It’s something like that.

Brendan: Yeah.

Mark:
Yeah. And it’s just like that complex adaptive systems theory where everything affects everything. And it’s the same way companies run, it’s the same way your physiology in your body runs, but it’s more so intertwined that if you leave out one aspect of performance, then all the others suffer. But if you take an entire system’s approach to fixing performance, regardless of what it is, then you get crazy results.

Brendan:
Yeah, it’s awesome.

Mark:
So it’s cobweb versus, I think it was organizational chart or something like that. It’d be a long-winded billboard, that one.

Brendan:
Yeah. And the final question, you are on the first flight to Mars, with Elon Musk and the first settlers aboard the SpaceX starship Rocket. So what business do you start when you land on Mars and how do you promote it to the new Martians?

Mark:
It would have to be indoor wave pools, I think.

Brendan:
The first time I ask-

Mark:
And surfing sells itself. All you got to do is offer a few free surf lessons and when people experience that feeling, what else is there going to be to do on Mars than ride a few waves? So it will sell itself.

Brendan:
Definitely. So Mark, once again, really appreciate your time today and the value you’ve dropped to the audience. Is there anything you’d like to say before we wrap up and how can people get in touch?

Mark:
Thanks for having me first and thanks to the listeners for listening. If anyone wants to get in contact with me, my website is www.markmathews.com. And Mathews with one T.

Brendan: OneT.

Mark:
Yeah, or on LinkedIn or social media, it’s @markmathewssurf, so feel free to reach out and I’d love to work with your company and figure out this whole complex cobweb of performance, stress, energy, all of that stuff.

Brendan:
Yeah, amazing. We’ll put all the links and resources Mark has mentioned in the show notes. And Mark, thanks for such a fantastic conversation. And I’ll also put up some of your big wave surfing photos in the show notes because they’re absolutely mind-blowing and hard to describe on air.

Mark:
Yeah. I think when people look at that, they’ll be like, “No, we’re not listening to this crazy person.”

Brendan:
No, it’s an awesome mission that you’re out on changing many people’s lives. So yeah, I want to thank you for that and thank you for coming in today.

Mark:
Awesome. Thanks for having me.

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