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Transcript: How To Deal With Life's Stresses (EP32)


Intro (with music): Welcome to The Culture of Things podcast with Brendan Rogers. This is a podcast where we talk all things, culture, leadership and teamwork across business and sport.


Brendan Rogers: Hello, everybody. I'm Brendan Rogers, the host of The Culture of Things podcast. This is Episode 32.

Today, I'm talking with Luke and Shaun Sullivan. Luke and Shaun are brothers and together, run Team Challenge Australia along with Luke's wife, Emily. Team Challenge Australia or TCA is a team building, leadership and wellbeing company based on the Central Coast.

Luke and Shaun are both Personal Development, Health, and Physical Education Teachers delivering the Outdoor Recreation and Wellbeing Programs at Girrakool Education Training Unit. Girrakool ETU is a unique New South Wales Department of Education & Communities School located within Frank Baxter Juvenile Justice Centre. With over 11 years’ experience working with some of New South Wales most at risk and challenging 16- to 21-year old Juvenile offenders, they have a passion for getting the best out of individuals and bringing them together as a Team in nature.

The focus of our conversation today is ‘how to reduce and deal with life’s stresses’.

Luke, Shaun, welcome to The Culture of Things podcast.

Luke & Shaun Sullivan: Thanks for having us.

Brendan Rogers: Guys, thanks for being here. Now, we're going to get into this topic around life stresses and stuff, but working in a juvenile justice centre, that just must have some stresses attached to itself. Luke, tell us a bit about that.

Luke Sullivan: Definitely, it does. I think if you're the right type of person and we've got a really good team of people that we work with there, you can get a lot out of working in that environment. We've certainly learned a lot and it's definitely led us into this whole new world with TCA and the team building with what we do now. But there is obviously a lot of constraints and stresses that come with working in that environment. But as a whole, if you got the right people around you and the right leaders, and we've been very fortunate in what we've been able to access and what we've been able to learn and then grow within our own business from working in that environment. You do learn a lot from working with people in quite a unique environment within a juvenile justice Centre. That's for sure.

Brendan Rogers: Before we go across to Shaun, just tell us a little bit about your background and what's taken you on this journey with the Juvenile Justice and TCA especially.

Luke Sullivan:  Yes, we’re both PDHPE teachers and obviously have a passion for sport and getting the best out of people, and that really kind of led us to working in the Juvenile Justice Centre within the school there. We had some incredible leaders and mentors there that saw, I guess, an area that I was, that were both of us, particularly we’re interested in with outdoor rec and the health and wellbeing side of things. So we were fortunate to be trained in a lot of really good areas, linking to be able to deliver programs in nature and fortunate enough to do some incredible training and then be able to deliver a Cert II in Outdoor Recreation to the 16 to 21-year olds prior to release, ones that have behaved enough. And it's used as an incentive to one’s prior to release to actually get outside the gate once a week and run through a lot of these programs that are all based around teamwork. They're based around being in nature and working together and having trust and resilience and mental grit. There's a lot of values that we have that we're able to put these guys in these situations and work with them to get through. So we're very fortunate of the work we do within there. And it's definitely been amazing for our business and we wouldn't have ended up, I don't think in this situation with TCA without that.

Brendan Rogers: Shaun, I’ll cross to you, mate. How stressful is it to work with your brother?

Shaun Sullivan: Yeah. Day to day, it's quite stressful. (Laughing) No, it's all right. We're pretty close actually. We've obviously grown up mucking around and playing footy together and doing all sorts of stuff that young kids do, but, yeah, on a day-to-day basis, we seem to get along. All right, still luckily.

Brendan Rogers: Good to hear, mate. How about you tell us a little bit about your background as well?

Shaun Sullivan: Yeah, so I've always obviously been into sport and outdoor adventures and that's sort of, what's got us into it and from a young age playing Rugby Union and Rugby League on the Central Coast and then always involved down at the beach and surfing and sort of around that sort of culture. So we've loved to sort of push ourselves in our own areas and do that. And then, yeah, as Luke said, when we got more training and some really good role models up at the Juvenile Centre, we sort of extended that and people all around us, which we've got really good people around us, which we were lucky that love to do these sorts of things as well. And TCA sort of evolved from that.

Brendan Rogers: So going into this topic about managing stress, life’s stresses, whether that's in sport or organisations, whatever it is, the world’s pretty stressful joint nowadays, unfortunately, you guys have this program and what you guys stress is a holistic stress prevention training. Maybe, Luke, do you want to just share what is that about? Because it's quite different to the normal sort of team building stuff that's out there.

Luke Sullivan:  It's all based around these, the words for one of the programs, which is breath, mind, body conditioning. And if we think about it, people are trained in some of those different areas. But if you really think about those words, if we're able to control our breath, our mind, and our body and put them together and condition them together, it's very, very powerful. And that doesn't need to be in huge time outlay, huge expense or a huge chunk of your life. Very, very small snippets of time. And we practice this daily because it's what we enjoy doing is you don't need long to add value and optimise how you're feeling. And that's something we live by and we really enjoy exposing other people too in these programs that it is worth getting changed for getting in the ocean for three minutes, between a meeting or it is worth stopping on your way home from work, after being on the freeway and putting your head under a waterfall.

It's 300 metres off that freeway that people come screaming up that freeway day in, day out. A lot of people don't look for the opportunities that are there to reduce stress, get back to nature and put themselves in a really good space to then when they do arrive home to the wife and the kids and the family or whatever it is, they're in a much better space. So it's about real life practical ways that people can improve their overall health and headspace big time.

Brendan Rogers: Certainly, very, very important nowadays, as we said, but Shaun, I might get you to just, what is stress to you and what does it look like in a person? You look at someone and think, “Wow, they're pretty stressed.”

Shaun Sullivan: Yeah, for sure. It's on a whole range of levels, really like from short-term stress, obviously, your body reacts different. Everyone's body reacts different and you’re increasing heart rate, you might not be thinking too clearly. For people in a sporting environment even, their stress might look different to people that are in the corporate world, or for example, a tradie might look different for them. So everyone sort of finds stresses at a different level and finds things more challenging than other people. Obviously, long-term stress can have a huge impact on someone's health and lead to obviously long-term illnesses.

The old saying of the “fight and flight” of the response from our body. We don't really want to be in that stress state the whole time. But obviously, in this 21st century, people have young kids, they're working long hours, they got big mortgages, they got bills to pay. So that alone the lifestyle we live now is obviously really stressful for people to cope with. The analogy we sort of use and refer back to is “Everyone's sort of got a glass, and throughout the day, that glass just continues to fill up, fill up, fill up.” And it might only be one comment from somebody or one person cutting him off in traffic, or one thing that might just overflow that cup. So we try and pride ourselves on and try and provide people with practical strategies that they can reduce that cup and obviously deal with the day-to-day stresses. And if they're in a sporting team or they’re leaders in their company, they need to be performing it sort of an optimal level, which if you're under stress and your body's feeling that, then you can't perform at its best all the time.

Brendan Rogers: Luke, what are the, some of the impacts of stress? You know, let's just frame this up a bit. What are the impacts that you've seen around stress for people?

Luke Sullivan: We see the product of a lot of stress in our day-to-day work within the Juvenile Justice Centre. These young men have been in a survival situation their whole life and their response to very, very trivial things that you and I might not think are major can send them into a total meltdown of stress and put themselves and then other people's safety at risk really, really quickly. So stress does different things to different people. It's really obvious when one of these young men are in a stressed state. I could be sitting opposite you here. You could have had the most stressful day ever. You could be really stressed. Now, I might not be able to tell, but your body's obviously not in this optimal state that you'd like it to be in.

So stress comes out in so many different forms for so many different people. It's about being really aware of how and what that feels like. We often talk to people in our breath, mind, body conditioning program about just getting two to three slow controlled breaths a day, and trying to use little snippets of time. When you're sitting at the lights, there's so many opportunities throughout a day that people will reach for a phone or reach for a device or reach for a drink of something when often, a very, very small snippet of time to actually focus on the one thing that we really need. And that is oxygen. We can survive without water and food for a length of time; oxygen, much more than three minutes. And often, people are not breathing at an optimal rate. There's often, you know, our breathing goes into such erratic different phases and that, so one thing that we like to talk to people about is that the one thing we all have that cost nothing.

And it's the, you hear it a lot in the breath world is that your breath is the lowest hanging fruit. We can all access it. It's having a little bit of education around it, but you don't need a huge amount of education. But the biggest thing about it is being able to apply it when it's required, whether that's a little bit of preventative techniques, or whether it's you feel yourself getting up into this state. You start some slow, controlled nasal breathing. Your body can't help, but reverse the effects, like Shaun was talking about the higher heart rate, the blood pressure, all of these things go on. Cortisol, hormones. All of these things change, even if you're starting to feel that if you go into a slow, controlled breathing, your body reverses, all those physical stresses, very much a physical response. And they reverse by doing a slow, controlled breathing technique, which everyone can do.

Brendan Rogers: To me, it's pretty fascinating, I have to say. And I can't wait to get a little bit deeper into this, but I just want to check in with you guys again, given the environment you're working in quite often, is it that this word stress gets overused today? And is it actually more a point of maybe we lack resilience in our society?

Shaun Sullivan: Yeah. Resilience is a massive, massive thing. And running the well-being program up in the Juvenile Centre, that's one of the main areas we try and teach these kids is to sort of have that, “Things aren't going to go right all the time”. And that they're well aware of that because they've had things go wrong from the get go, some of these young men. A hundred percent, it's being able to equip them and give them the strategies. And not only them, everybody these days is looking for the little edge to cope with these day-to-day stresses that come out. People can create their own stress, I think these days as well. I've done it before in the past, put too much either pressure on myself or tried to overdo too many things in one week, which I'm still trying to work on that one. But yeah, I think the lifestyle that we live now is creating stress.

The expectations that we put on ourselves or that we see around us with social media is such a big one these days for young kids. By the rate of that it's going like, things like mental health and anxiety and depression, anxiety in young people by the time they leave school. Now, in females, it's about 57% are leaving with chronic anxiety before they've even left year 12 and just under 50% for males. So it's at a huge rate where the pressures that they're getting put on, whether it's in mainstream schools where they've got exams and they've got parents, or they've got to get certain marks to get into a university, whatever that stress is, it's becoming stronger and stronger feeling at a younger and younger age. So it's really important and we're in a fortunate position that we can sort of try and help these young men at a younger age and try and just give them some basic tools to be able to use while they're inside the Juvenile Centre, but also when they leave.

And I try and reinforce to them that, how important it can be just by being a positive role model to their younger sisters or brothers or even older parents that might not have been educated as well as they get now. So there's a really big scope that we can provide education for and through TCA as well. It's just never ending. And we're always looking for other new and innovative ways to sort of give that message out there.

Brendan Rogers: The stats that you have shared are amazing. I'm going to chuck across to Luke. What are we doing wrong?

Luke Sullivan: I honestly believe we're not getting ourselves uncomfortable enough. As society has gone on, we've become incredibly good at getting Uber Eats. We've come incredibly good at getting everything delivered to us in our, where we are in the perfect comfort of the air conditioning and all these things. And that's one thing that we do with the programs, we do with our Department of Education. And with our business is we look at getting people more comfortable in uncomfortable environments. And that's something that we do everyday ourselves. So I won't go on about it too much, but we do a lot of cold water immersion and we use the ice bath. And that's one thing that even though I've been doing ice baths for 5 or 6 years, that's one thing every single time you go with a hammer and crack ice in a bath and getting into it, you are putting yourself in a mental headspace that, you know, that is really, really cold, and it'd be a lot more comfortable not to do it, but that regular training of your mind that it is “Okay, the benefits for this, how I feel after this, I can push through this,” all of that stuff.

I don't think it's as mainstream as it should be. And we utilise a number of different ways to do it, whether on our Alpine adventure, whether it's when we've got people on a cliff rock climbing or in the ocean or under the water, there's a number of different environments that we use to push people into nature and out of their comfort zone, and then use the people around them and some basic breath work and skills to be able to get through those events or whatever it is that they're doing. And everything that I've just spoken about can be then linked back to everyday stress. If someone has the ability to crack ice on an ice bath and submerge themselves in that for 3 or 4 minutes in the middle of winter, when they then arrive to work and someone cuts in front of them in the coffee line, it might not be as major stress.

It's being able to train. We need to train ourselves to be able to deal with different things that go on. Something we do a lot on with both our roles is change adaptability. Change is inevitable. Change is happening all the time. COVID-19 is a perfect example. How many people's lives have been thrown into a spin because of this illness that has just hit, this virus? So change adaptability is massive, and it's training yourself, putting yourself and the people around you. And we're fortunate, we train with, and we've been around, and attracts those type of people and you can really push each other in a number of ways. So, as Shaun said earlier, we've got an incredible team of people, family, and friends around us that we enjoy doing a lot of these different things with, but I really think nature and getting more comfortable in uncomfortable environments would help a lot of people.

Brendan Rogers: You guys are both pretty fit dudes. So I'm guessing you're living and breathing, excuse the pun, what you're doing. ‘Cause I don't think you'd be ordering too many Uber Eats, is that right?

Luke Sullivan: (Laughing) I'm actually going to pizza tonight.

Brendan Rogers: (Laughing) You're allowed to loosen up every now and again. Yeah. Good on you. That's led us in well into the program. Shaun, how about you tell us a little bit about this breath, mind, body conditioning part of the program?

Shaun Sullivan: So that's one of the more popular ones that we've recently done. We can do it with a whole range of people - individual, we do it with teams, we do it with corporate companies. And it's really exactly what the name says. So getting the breath and the mind connected, and a lot of people aren't aware of it. A lot of people are doing training in a lot of other areas, but really leaving out the most essential part of their life, which is their breathing. It's really important that they sort of have a knowledge behind it. When we're talking about stressful situations, if they've got simple tools and they’re regularly practicing it, that's a big thing. We sort of reinforce that it's not sort of a one-off course, you come and do it. We give you take home messages and the tools that you can go away and adapt it to whatever your situation is. So whether it, whether you are, we work with a lot of the elite surfers around this area, Ace Buchan and Molly, but it's being able to adapt it to their environment. So for those guys, they're doing high heart rate, a lot of high heart rates, sort of recovery type stuff, whereas, the odd tradesmen that might come and do it, he needs to adapt it to his lifestyle. So it's being able to really customise the program that we do with it, and adapt it to the person that's best suited for it.

Brendan Rogers: That word. You mentioned lifestyle, and I guess it comes back to lifestyle choice. I imagine that can be quite hard because it's like losing weight, right? You've got to change your lifestyle and make better decisions. So Luke, how do you make that happen? How do you try and achieve that at a high percentage, of times, actually getting people to change their lifestyle in order to take some of these things on?

Luke Sullivan: Look, the biggest thing, and we've learned a lot in this area is that people need to want to do it. People that want to change and want to expose themselves to new learnings and then apply it, they'll go a long way. People that don't want to, we'll still provide them the opportunity if they come to one of our programs and you're trying to equip them with as many tools. And as for us, you can't get too emotionally connected to things when people don't want to take it away and utilise it. ‘Cause that is one thing we try to talk about is we can provide a number of different, practical, realistic skills and education that people can use but if it's not being practiced. So often, when, after some of our courses, we look at checking in after 7 days, and seeing how often they utilise some of the techniques that we showed them.

We use the land and the water generally in our breath, mind, body conditioning programs. So, they learn to do a number of different breathing techniques and to get them to feel the benefits straight away, which blows people away quite often, how different they can feel in such a short amount of time. They don't need 90 minutes on a cliff with the sound of rain to actually get into a nice, calm state. It can be really short and sharp, but then we use the water as a vehicle to take people again, into that uncomfortable, and then have to use their breath to remain calm while they're then trying to do a number of these different challenges we work through with them. Safety, obviously really high when you're working with people in regards to their breath and in the water. Yeah.

Fortunate to have worked with an amazing array from, you know, young children to mums, to tactical operation police, people with a whole range of different illnesses, a lot of elite sporting people in the rugby league, rugby union, surfing, a whole range of different martial arts people. So we always take a lot away from the different athletes and the different people we work with within the corporate world. Everyone has such a different story and it's how things can be applied to what they're doing. And we really like to get to know them and put ourselves in the shoes of the people that we're trying to help with some of these things. So that's really important for us that we try to whoever it is we're talking to and working with that we try to think, “All right, is in your day-to-day, in your training or in your work, how do you see? We have an idea of how we think it could fit into yours,” but really make them think about how that could apply to their day, what that looks like in their daily routine. And is it feasible to put that in there? Or is it, “Why is it not,” you know, like have the open up those conversations. With that program, particularly, it's very much practical and looking at how they can then take it away and implement it into their lives.

Brendan Rogers: So, how about we use me as an example, I'm as good as anyone. So this fine physical specimen in front of you guys.

Shaun Sullivan: Put your shirt on. (Laughing)

Brendan Rogers: (Laughing) I didn't like the laugh that came out of Shaun’s mouth. (Laughing). So I'm coming on to this program, the breath, mind, body conditioning program. What does, is it day one or what does that first part look like? If I'm a newbie to this, what do you do with me?

Luke Sullivan: Prior to you coming, we get a deeper insight. So we would get a lot more information out of you of obviously, you know, we get your age, your 25 and you’re fit and you’re whatever it is, all the information, well, how often you commute, where do you love being. We get a really good snapshot of who you are and where you come from. So we've got a really good idea and angle of what we see could really help you. And then, it's about you seeing what we do with you throughout that program, you seeing how much that could be implemented into what you do. So we run a lot of our programs out of Terrigal Haven in regards to our breath work, so beautiful setting down there. As we said, we use the land and the water, but the program, it runs in so many different ways. We have some of our elite athletes and some of our not-so-elite athletes and corporates do regular sessions with us, regular trainings with us. We have others that do, you know, our one off and they might check back in another 6 months, 12 months. So it's very much up to different people depending on what they want to get out of it.

Brendan Rogers: So, Shaun, how about you share what are practical exercises? You know, I've come home from a hard day's work. I'm feeling a bit stressed. My boss has been on my back. I'm complaining to my wife. How do you help me?

Shaun Sullivan: We've got a number of different strategies. A really effective, quick one that we use is what we call the blue breaths, which is a really slow, to slow the heart rate down. We've got obviously the parasympathetic and sympathetic state, and when we're in a stress state, our heart rate’s high. So we need to lower that heart rate, and the quickest way to lower that heart rate is take control of your breath. So if you can visualise your lungs as being an exaggerated triangle, and you can visualise a blue liquid or gas filling up that triangle really, really slow. When we're doing the example, we get people to use their hands so they can actually feel it on their chest, slowly filling up. Nasal breathing is really, really important. So we encourage people as much as they can to breathe through their nose, not through their mouth, which again, slows down the heart rate and puts our body in a calmer state. When you've got control over your breath, you're basically sending a message from your heart to your brain to say, “Everything's okay.” So you get home from work, you're stressed, you might sit in the car for one minute. That's all it takes to slow down that heart rate. And if you do these nice, slow controlled blue breaths, which is basically to keep it really simple now is if your lungs are filling up from the bottom, through your nose, and then exhaling through your nose as well. One minute of that will change the state of your mind. And your breath is the quickest way of changing the state of your mind. That's connected obviously to your brain.

So that's a really simple, easy one that people can use at any stage throughout their day. I use it on a daily basis, when I’m even in the classroom up inside the Juvenile Centre and things are, they don't go ideal every single day. And the boys don't need to know that I'm doing it, but I can be doing my blue breaths in there. And it changes the way, changes the next decision I make, the next comment I make. Put it into a practical example for young parents, their kids are going mad. I know 5 or 6 o’clock at night is a hectic time. And they might not say the right thing to their partner or their kids, but if they have the chance and they have the knowledge to be able to take a few nice calm blue breaths, it might change the way they interact with their partner or their kids. It's only a benefit. You can't overdose on slow, controlled, conscious breathing.

Brendan Rogers: Luke, I get the feeling that Shaun has maybe been on the phone to you a bit at 5, 6 o’clock in the evening when you've got these three kids running around and you're doing this slow, controlled breathing, is that right? Are you the expert of this breathing?

Luke Sullivan: Normally, I’m trying to run with the kids to catch up with them. So, Shaun’s live pretty closely. Uncle Shaun's lived pretty closely with the three kids. And, yeah, he's seen it all in full flight. So it's very busy, you know. In our household, anyone that knows me knows there'll be good chance of not getting me on the phone between 5 and 8 o’clock at night, because it is all hands-on-deck, you know, three beautiful, healthy, happy kids, but no one prepares you for the onslaught of what's going to happen in that, in the witching hours, trying to get them fed, bathed, and ready for bed. That's for sure. So, as we said earlier, we definitely practice what we preach. And as oftentimes, when I'd take the bins out at around that time and sometimes, I need to just walk the bins out, put them in, I walked a long way back and, get a few slow, controlled breaths in. And quite honestly, it really can help.

Look, in the one minute you are doing those slow, controlled breaths, you’re doubling the amount of oxygen you're getting around your system. So when you're not thinking about your breathing, people do on average between 12 to 20 breath cycles and inhale and exhale per minute. When you're consciously focusing on your nasal breathing, people will do generally between 4 to 6 breaths. For those 4 to 6 breaths they do, they're getting 8 litres of oxygen instead of 4 running around their body. So, look. I think that's a really nice thing for people to know too, that in one minute, like right now, whoever's listening, if they press pause and for one minute, slowly inhale and exhale through their nose and count inhale and exhale as one, count how many you do in the minute? You will double the amount of oxygen getting around your system in that time.

So you're only going to be better off in 60 seconds time than you are right now, without focusing on your breath. Quite often, throughout our day, without us knowing, our breathing gets so short and shallow. And there's a lot of people that actually hold their breath for extended periods of time in that state of stress. You see people driving often at the top of the Kariong hill on the Central Coast, and they're ripping down to Sydney through those lights. And if they hold the steering wheel any tighter, they'll rip it off. And you can see in there, you can see in their face, you know, the amount of issues and the amount of health issues we have with blood pressure. It is incredible, the amount of people on blood pressure.

They did some really good studies in Japan of the benefits of only six slow, controlled nasal breaths. And that they're amazing results with getting people off blood pressure medication. So the simple techniques, these simple skills, as far as your breathing and nature, a lot of people have been doing a lot of incredible things well before our generation. And a lot of that can be forgotten and, you know, people will get caught up on the Instagram and the Facebook and the Snapchat and the iPads and all these things. And yeah, there's a place for all of that, but definitely some, you know, some really good knowledge that, you know, we want to make sure people understand and feel from what's, you know, what's gone before us definitely.

Brendan Rogers: It's so often, isn't it, that the simplest things or what seems like the simplest thing, like breathing, controlled breathing, nasal breathing, and what such a great impact it can have. Let's say, that's the small size, I guess, foundation. Let's move to that middle-size. What's the, Shaun, what's the next stage of pushing myself? I've got my breathing. I'm doing this each day and got a discipline around that. What's the middle challenge that I should get to?

Shaun Sullivan: We’ve linked in with a lot of our programs, we've got a thing called the one percenters, which we pride ourselves on, like Luke said before on making sure we each sort of get these done each day as well. That's obviously getting a minimum of one minute of conscious breathing done getting 7 to 8 hours sleep in. Sleeps, when we recover, grow, repair. So everyone needs that, especially living these stressful lives, getting an adequate amount of water and depending on our activity levels that can vary for people, nutrition, getting the basics right. A lot of people are getting so confused now, and there can be an overload of information on what we should be eating, what we shouldn't be eating, with the media and advertising going on and all the new fads and diets out there. We try and stick to a really basic formula by eating whole foods 80% of the time, which looks like, if it swims, walks around or grows out of the ground, eat it.

And if you need to be readying a label with ingredients, as long as your arm, often, you shouldn't be eating that. The mind, controlling your mind, obviously. We're really lucky, obviously, living here on the Central Coast and in Australia as a country. To be grateful for what we've got is a major thing that can reduce stress and improve the well-being of all different ages. So really, focusing on, it's quite easy for people to get caught up in needing the newest car or the bigger house or the bigger, whatever it is, and sort of not coming back to realising how good we actually have it to have clean clothes and fresh water every day. Like, especially in these times now with Coronavirus happening and people losing jobs and whatever it is, it's tough times for people. And I understand that and that's the way things are going to change. And we've got to adapt with it.

And like, we spoke about resilience before, it's getting these basic things right. If we're not getting our 7, 8 hours sleep in, or we're not exercising, we need to move our body to be healthy. Without moving your body on a daily basis, you can't be healthy. You can't be performing to your optimal level, whether that's a professional athlete or whether that's a leader in being a CEO of a business, you can't be performing to your best or even thinking to your best if you're not moving your body, if you're not getting adequate sleep, if you're not interacting with people. Social interaction is a huge thing. And we've already spoken about it today, how fortunate we are to have an amazing group around us. And that can be, when times are tough or something goes wrong, if you've got people you can chat to, or you've got people that you can call to come and help you out, that's a huge, huge, huge thing to have.

Getting the 1% is we often start people off on a 14-day, set them a challenge of a, sort of a checklist of the one-percenters and sort of, it gives us a gauge too on how committed they are to change, and how committed they are to improving their health and well-being. And quite often, if they're not committed to that, we'll see quite quickly that they won't be sort of hitting that mark. And then, on the flip side, for those that are already doing those basics right, it can give them the edge. Two seconds can be the difference between silver and gold for some athletes. Getting their mindset and getting them doing the basics is crucial. So, we're obviously really big on doing those things and trying to, obviously every day, you try and get the basics right. But there's times when you're either traveling or you're in a different location, or you've got things going wrong. If you can still be nailing the majority of those one percenters you're in, you're setting yourself up for the best opportunity to perform, think, and be the best person you can be.

Brendan Rogers: Isn’t that the challenge? Because I know in the work I do with leaders and teams that I really often am saying, like, “I'm not telling them anything they don't already know.” Why don't they do it?

Shaun Sullivan: Yeah.

Brendan Rogers: Why don’t they do it? That’s the question. So maybe, Luke, you've got a perspective on this. What is it? You know, everything we've spoken about today, I'm not undervaluing. It's absolutely fantastic. And it makes perfect sense. But where does that line sit? You know, that accountability and getting people across the line, maybe you can tell us a bit about that and even maybe share where a success stories come in for you, that you guys are really proud of what you've been able to achieve for someone or help someone achieve.

Luke Sullivan: I think, for a lot of people, they underestimate what they're capable of doing as well. So one thing that we're really quite big on is setting sometimes quite an outlandish challenge. That could be a 2:00 AM wake up to go for a run through the bush, which people go, “Why?” and “How?” or “What?” Like, “why would that ever happen?” And there's more to it than just getting up and doing a 30-, 40-minute run through the bush at night. There's so much mindset that comes into it.

There's something I guess, jumping out at it may, from what we've done with a group of guys in a little team that we've kind of ended up creating was we did some breath work with some of the Central Coast’s really good paddlers, prone paddlers. So they lay down and paddle on a board for a long time. And these guys were doing really well in the Molokai in Hawaii. And they were doing, trying to improve their performance. So they were doing a little bit of breath work with us. We got to know them really well. Other than surfing, we hadn't done any prone long distance paddling. But really liking to kind of practice what we preach, we set the target to paddle the length of the Central Coast, which is, I think 47 kilometres from the boat ramp up at Soldiers down past Terrigal-Avoca along through, around into Ettalong. So we did that. So that was over the length of a marathon and we laid down and paddle in it and it was a great achievement with the guys we did it with. And then, we thought, “Well, let's, there's some islands up off where we regularly holiday up off Coffs Harbour called the Solitary Islands.”

And that was about 70 plus kilometres, the first island being 15 kms offshore. And we actually ended up doing a paddle where we paddled around those. And they were in the name of the Disabled Surfing and the Coast Shelter, and trying to think of some other people that we could raise some awareness for. But the guys we did that with, they had a lot of knowledge in the paddle area. They'd done a lot in that area, but they'd never done paddles like this before. We'd never done paddles like this, but I guess both our skills kind of combined to do these challenges that people thought, “What? There's no way. Why would you? How does that?” It's about finding a way for those things to be able to actually work with everyone that's different, you know.

I guess a lady that jumps out at me is Monica. Monica is a lady who started just doing these really basic 31-minute training sessions with us. She did some of our breath, mind, body conditioning stuff. She's gone on and she’s just, she's lost over 40 kilograms. Her life has just totally done a swing. She's commuting to Sydney. She's a mom, busy, got a lot on. And she was like a lot of people. She was putting everything in anyone else first before herself at her own expense. And she ended up in a pretty bad way. And it's just incredible now to see the difference that we never get people to get scales out or anything like that. But it's amazing what, something as simple as moving and exercising and getting into nature and her losing that weight, that total change in her life and the change for her family, it's inspiring. And she's one that I guess really jumps out at us, which is really nice to see her doing that.

Brendan Rogers: Yeah. It's a great story. Thanks for sharing. Must be very satisfying for you guys as well, seeing that and just changing someone's lives.

Luke Sullivan: On that, they changed their own lives. We've worked with many, many other people who had the idea to do what Monica was doing, but Monica, she put the effort in, we provided her with a little bit of a platform and some skills, and she's so quick to thank us and to thank people who have supported her. But yeah, a big one on that is you can provide that, you can't be there with the person all the time. So it does, definitely that accountability is massive.

Brendan Rogers: Yeah. It's a great point. They have to own it most of the time. We've talked about the foundation and breathing and, we’ve, you know, gone a little bit into the middle size. Luke, you mentioned earlier a little bit around ice and all that sort of stuff, but Shaun, what's the supersize challenge?

Shaun Sullivan: (Laughing) Right now, we don't have one in the pipeline. Obviously, Corona's held us back a little bit in some ways, but we're always looking for new adventure. We're always looking for new ways to push ourselves. We've spoken about hitting into the Northern territory and doing a TCA adventure up there. We've also looked in into, maybe hitting over into WA. I did an amazing trip across the bottom of Australia last year in the van and scoped out a few different locations that are sort of, been on the phone to Luke while I was away saying, “This is amazing. We need to get down here,” or exposing people to these things that we sort of love to try and explore ourselves. And there is absolutely no limit to what we want to push into in the future. And, yeah, we're up for anything and, as long as we can get the time and get the right people around us,  we're ready to go.

Brendan Rogers: Sounds pretty exciting, mate, I have to say. I want to ask about the ice thing because people I think can really relate to that. I've heard of something called the Wim Hof Method. I don't profess to know much about it, but it's all around the breathing and it's extreme cold and all that. So can you tell us a bit about this and what it does and how you make it work and the benefits around that in these extreme levels?

Luke Sullivan: For sure. So the Wim Hof Method, we've done a lot of his courses and training. He's great. He has made breathwork and cold water immersion a lot more mainstream for people to be able to understand. He's set up some great platforms for people to be able to so, if you've done nothing to do with your breathing and you've done nothing to do with the cold water, he would be definitely a guy. I would recommend that you Google Wim Hof. He has just amazing knowledge and he backs it every bit of the way. But I guess for us, look, the cold water is a challenge. There's a huge amount of scientific evidence to say that cold water immersion is really good for a human. But if I was to funnel it down to why I do it, our government job, three kids, our business, and high expectations of my own training and my own relationships, I want to be at my best. So if that means between some of these things, spending 3 minutes in really cold water where you can't help but focus on your breath. When you're in freezing water, you need to focus on your breath or you're out of there.

So, to have three minutes to just focus solely on surviving is putting yourself in a situation that you really need to focus on the breath. For me, it's like a reset. I can be feeling pretty shattered going home to the kids at that witching hour sometimes. And I will, you know, scoop by our little area where we have our ice bath and you know, three minutes in there. The difference of that three minutes, what sort of dad, what sort of husband I am for those next 3 to 4 hours? It's honestly, night and day.

It's very, very addictive utilising the cold water. At the start, for people, it's very daunting. It seems crazy. And I get that, but it's definitely something I would challenge people who are listening. If they've never thought about doing it, just to start, by having a nice hot shower, wash your hair, do all that bits and pieces. Then, turn the hot water off and finish for 30 seconds on a cold shower, and build it from there. Then, you'll start building it into a minute. Then you'll start building it into, you know, this time of year where we are, the taps aren't too cold anyway, but you know, try and build into some cold showers. And then, you go from there to getting a few bags of ice from the Caltex, and then you become addicted to this ice that we're talking about. And you end up spending too much money at the Calte on bags of ice. So you have to buy an ice bath, but so be warned. But honestly, the biggest bang for buck for me is the time spent in that ice bath to really reset, to find some real clarity and just be really ready to go for the next thing that's ready to come at you. As I said, putting that regular mental resilience training into your routine is massively valuable. We find ourselves in so many different adventurous, challenging situations, and I have no doubt that those regular trainings with those types of things helps a lot.

Brendan Rogers: So Shaun, how about you give us, just in wrapping up this conversation, us average, normal office workers, desk workers, that sort of stuff. What can we do now? What are some useful small tips that will help us reduce and manage life stresses?

Shaun Sullivan: On a daily basis, movement is crucial. Getting the body moving. If ideally, you can get some movement done early in the morning before you arrive to work. If you're commuting to Sydney from the Central Coast, maybe you wake up 20 minutes, half an hour early. You don't need to be at the gym. You don't need to be doing 2 hours. You just need to do some form of movement that can be slow, slow movement, or it can be going for a walk. Throughout the day, I encourage people to stand up, obviously working in offices, we can get caught, really busy, trying to get things done and we've got deadlines and we've got bosses and we've got people on our back to get certain things done. So, get up out of your seat, every, set an alarm on your phone if you have to, and get up out of your seat every half an hour to walk around the office.

I encourage everyone, not just people that work in offices to pack sort of a training bag or a bag that they have in the car all the time. So if they are on the way home or they are waiting for somebody for a meeting, they got 10 minutes, they got their joggers in the car and they can get 5 to 10 minutes walking while, that they're not wasting time, they're not sitting on their phone. And that's dead time really. So it's making the most of every opportunity in that bag or with you all the time. I encourage people to have a water bottle that encourages and reminds them to drink water throughout the day. It sounds so simple, but you ask 9 out of 10 people how many glasses of water they drink, they won't be able to answer that question. Yeah, it's going back to the basics and getting those things right.

Trying to find the positives in the day can encourage our mind to sort of focus and zone in on the good things happening around us. It's quite easy with the media these days and people at work to get caught up in, “things going wrong here,”and “we're late for this”, but a simple strategy that I use every single day is think of three things that you're really grateful for in that day. And that can be before you go to bed. That can be, as soon as you wake up. That might be at lunchtime when you are going for your walk. Another thing that people working in businesses or in that corporate world can do is utilise their lunch break as best they can. So whether it be walking while they have their lunch, or whether it be getting a bit of fresh air, it can be as basic as getting out of the air conditioned environment and getting a bit of sunshine outside in the car park. It doesn't need to be, you don't need to make it to the beach or an amazing resort or an amazing gym. You can be in the garden that can be very small and get the benefits from the sunlight and the fresh air. That'll reset you and send you back into the rest of the day in a better mind frame to finish the job and sort of perform to your best. And that's what everyone's looking for.

Brendan Rogers: Luke, you got some final thoughts and final bits of advice?

Luke Sullivan: Yeah. I just want to encourage people to get creative and find adventure within their day. We're so fortunate that we get to hang off ropes and in the ocean and on a mountain, bike and all these sorts of things throughout our daily work, which is incredible. A lot of people don't have that luxury and they're in the train and they're in the city and they're in a building. So find creative ways to add some adventure and some spice to your life. We get one life. You really need that training bag is crucial because you can be at the drop of a hat, ready to go and to do something that's, it doesn't need to be a physical thing, could be that you are sitting and just sitting in the sun for a couple of minutes, but we have people do whole range of different challenges where even through the city that they walk to work and how many, you know, how many different people they can speak to.

And they leave for work two hours before they normally would. You can find adventure and challenge and movement in so many different ways, and it can absolutely change your life. And you'll be amazed it won't just change your life. The people will follow - your family, your friends, they will see what you're doing. And often, people will think you're a little bit crazy with some of the things you're doing at the start. And then, you watch people will be onboard. They will. “Wow. That's amazing, what you've done. I can't believe you did that.” And, “Oh. You do something like that again, I want to come. I want to come.” And it can not just change your life, your kids, your friends, your family, it snowballs, and it can have an incredible, so don't underestimate the impact of one small action. Packing the night before. A good day starts the night before. So, for all those corporates getting ready to go to work the next day, be totally prepared the night before. If you're planning on going for a walk, have every single bit of training gear and everything laid out. So it's as simple as there's no excuse for you not to do it. Get comfortable in uncomfortable situations is a big one.

Brendan Rogers: Luke, what's the best way to get hold of you guys at Team Challenges Australia?

Luke Sullivan: Go into a national park. Nah, you can, (laughing) so you can go through our website  www.teamschallengeaustralia.com. You can send us in an email. You can send us on our Instagram, Team Challenge Australia. When people inquire, we'll ring them. And that often shocks people, but we like to keep it really personal. So our details and our phone numbers are on the website and the Instagram and Facebook and things. So yeah, anyone interested in improving and optimising their life in nature and in taking a lot of other people with them, then yeah, we're all ears and we're definitely here to help them. We encourage that.

Brendan Rogers: That's great, guys. I think it'd be remiss of me to not stroke Sharpie’s ego in this episode. Oh, I haven't mentioned but Matt Sharp is the chap that was on a few episodes ago and introduced us to you, guys. So, thanks, Matt for doing that.

Fantastic having you guys on the show today.

What I love probably most about what you're sharing is that it's stuff that's easy to do, but it's also easy not to do. So it really comes down to the individual choice of what people want to do, what they want to achieve. Do they want to take control of their life and actually be better and be their best self? So, thanks for sharing such practical, great advice. Well done on the work you guys are doing. I've watched a number of the videos. It looks like really good, fun, fantastic stuff. And really, some of those challenges out there are really good to see people challenging themselves day-to-day. So keep it up.

Thanks for coming on. Thanks for being guests on The Culture of Things podcast.

Shaun Sullivan: Thanks, Brendan. Love being on here, mate. Thanks very much.

Luke Sullivan: Thank you.

(Music plays)

Brendan Rogers: Luke and Shaun walk the talk. They love a challenge and they love challenging other people. At the end of the interview, when I asked the guys where we can get hold of them, Luke jokingly said, “The National Park”. The crazy thing is we recorded this interview a few weeks ago on a Friday. That weekend, my wife and I decided to head up to The Entrance Lake House, which is a fantastic cafe and restaurant run by Sean Grobbelaar. Before popping in, we had a walk around the lake. And what do we see? The Teams Challenge Australia car with an empty boat trailer in the car park. Luke and Shaun were out and about, taking on another challenge, and partaking in some water sport that involves lots of movement. I don't think Luke was joking at all about finding them in a national park, somewhere on the Central Coast.

These were my three key takeaways from my conversation with Luke and Shaun.

My first key takeaway. Leaders do the basics. In Luke and Shaun's world, they call them the ‘one percenters’. It's the one minute of conscious breathing, getting eight hours of sleep, drinking enough water, eating the right foods, at least most of the time, and moving your body every day. Shaun also mentioned maintaining positive and controlled thoughts. And he used daily gratitude as an example. Great leaders do the 1% well as they know it sets the foundation to perform at your best.

My second key takeaway. Leaders get comfortable in uncomfortable situations. Whether this relates to training yourself around cold water immersion, or having the tough conversations in your workplace with one of your team members, the purpose is the same. As leaders, you must get comfortable in uncomfortable situations. Otherwise, you will never become the extraordinary leader that you hope to be.

My third key takeaway. Leaders are committed to improving. Luke shared a wonderful example of Monica and her journey. TCA provided the platform to improve, but Monica wanted to change, and she put in the effort to make the change happen. So many people nowadays are looking for that silver bullet, the easy way to get it done. Real leaders know everything worthwhile involves hard work to achieve and the commitment to making the improvement happen.

So, in summary, my three key takeaways were: leaders do the basics, leaders get comfortable in uncomfortable situations, leaders are committed to improving.

If you have any questions or feedback about this episode, please feel free to send me a message at brendan@brendanrogers.com.au.

Thank you for listening. Stay safe. Until next time.  


Outtro (music): Thank you for listening to The Culture of Things podcast with Brendan Rogers. Please visit brendanrogers.com.au to access the show notes. If you love The Culture of Things podcast, please subscribe, rate and give a review on Apple podcasts and remember a healthy culture is your competitive advantage.