What is the book you’ve given most as a gift?
For personal not business: Training for the New Alpinism (Steve House & Scott Johnston), or Phil Maffetone’s “Big Book of Health” and “Big Book of Endurance Racing”. All three have an interesting research-based perspective on health and wellbeing.
“The Goal” by Eli Goldratt, “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, and Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” have been staples on the reading list since I got into management.
What purchase of €100 or less has impacted mostly in your life?
Maybe €5? I don’t know how I got through the winters before I discovered snoods.
How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success?
I failed my PhD at interview one Friday in December 2000, after 20 or 30 failed job interviews to boot. I met with Brian Conlon of First Derivatives on the following Monday evening and landed a grad job on the highest entry salary they’d ever started anyone on. I was so humbled (or desperate) I didn’t take a holiday until July 2007. Suffice to say I wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass once I got a foot in the door.
Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?
Either “Go with the flow” or “Think for yourself and start by validating the raw data” depending on how cynical I’m feeling on the day.
My inner monologue frequently drifts to this quote: “Talent recognises genius; but mediocrity sees nothing higher than itself”. I was one of those freaks that read the “Art of War” once a year for 5 or 6 years so can spit out a strategic quote for most competitive circumstances.
What are the best investments you’ve ever made?
It has to be the investment in health and fitness; your health is your wealth.
What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?
Does making frequent reference to “The Dictators’ Handbook” count?
What new belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life?
Figuring out the power of daily smart, easy aerobic and strength training (no acid/no pain). My energy levels and powers of recovery are as good as they were twenty years ago.
What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student?
Tony Robbins nailed this one back in the early 1990s with his discussion on the economics of excellence. I forget exactly how it goes, but the gist is that across a career “average” stagnates and gets you fired, above average maybe you get a couple of promotions and a company car, great, promotion to VP, excellence, or be the best, you end up as the CEO, or even better start your own company and buy up your previous employer.
The point is that anyone who believes in the steady 9-5 is vectoring in on stagnation and an unpleasant discussion in a round of corporate restructuring. There are a few high-profile tech firms in Belfast whose hiring USP is “9-5”.
What have you become better at saying no to in the last five years?
I’ve mastered saying no and avoiding distractions at this point, so I need to work on being a bit more open. One person gets round the firewall every 12 months or so.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?
I do try to have a purge every night before bed; walk the dog in the woods for 30-40 mins followed by 20 mins breathing and mobility work.