On Tuesday last week I had the pleasure of spending a couple of hours in the company of Ant Middleton, former Special Forces Soldier and now TV star of Channel 4's SAS: Who Dares Wins, when he spoke to almost 200 people at January’s meeting of Leicester Tigers Business Club.
Ant’s story is quite phenomenal to the mere mortal but his experience of combat will be familiar to many who are close to military personnel. What sets Ant apart there, I suppose, is his experience in the SBS (Special Boat Service) the Royal Navy’s Special Forces, or according to Ant “Slightly Better Soldier” than the SAS’s “ Slightly Average Soldier’.
The main message he wanted to get across was one about mindset, although not just any mindset, a positive mindset. He said it is one of the key things that set him apart as a soldier and was, in part, responsible for him achieving accolades for Best Recruit, Best PT and his successful selection for Special Forces.
If you follow Ant on social media you’ll see that his posts are always peppered with the hashtag #zeronegativity and it’s clear that he lives with this mindset day in day out, even going so far as to cut his own brother out of his life due to his negative outlook – although they are now reconciled.
He said that if you approach a negative situation with a negative mindset, there is only one way that you’re going to go. But if you approach a negative situation with a positive mindset, there is a real shift and you can work through the problem to success. Even better though, positive situations paired with a positive mindset will see you soar.
He’s not infallible though, he very honestly spoke about a time in Afghanistan that he was leading a team to breach a compound where there was mostly certainly an armed hostile on the other side. He counted 3, 2, 1 to lead his team in, but couldn’t make the move. He was scared. After two failed attempts he told us his comrade on his right shoulder, without words, simply placed his hand on Ant’s shoulder and gave him two squeezes. Ant said it was so powerful it was like someone had reached round and put a shield up in front of him. The unspoken words were “We’ve got this brother, we’re right behind you. And if you go down, we’re here to finish the job”. He said the fear just drained away and he made the move, successfully taking down the hostile on the other side.
The message there? Teamwork. Having a team you can depend on entirely and trust with your life. Knowing each other inside and out. Knowing each others strengths and weaknesses and being there to step in and lift someone up when they’re struggling. But he quite plainly said, to those who don’t want to acknowledge their own weaknesses they will struggle on their own, ending up in failure. Being able to acknowledge your weaknesses to your team around you is another key factor to success.
The talk was short, but incredibly powerful. His Q&A at the end was very honest, talking about his views on Special Forces selection being opened up to women this year (just a quick look on his Twitter account will tell you his very honest, albeit controversial, well-presented view).
But, despite its' brevity, the messages around mindset and teamwork for both business owners and individuals was crystal clear proving business is, indeed, a battle field.