Poise under pressure is one of the most valuable skills you can possess. Period. Doesn’t matter whether you’re a professional freediver, a caffeine-addled writer or a business executive with more meetings than pocket squares: the ability to remain unflappable in the life’s clutch moments will ultimately determine your career (and social) success.
So, what’s the secret? Well, there’s no quick fix. But by implementing the following advice from Ant Williams, current Guinness World Record holder for the deepest free dive under ice (70m, if you’re interested), you can increase your chances (and skills) substantially.
Who knows: that pay rise could be just around the corner.
Speaking to D’Marge exclusively, Ant recently opened up about the physical and mental pressure involved with making a living at the extreme end of an extreme sport – and explaining how he uses the same skills to deal with challenging situations back on land.
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According to Ant, whether you’re in the water or the boardroom, build-up is crucial, as it helps you find the confidence to push through those inevitable moments of doubt.
“When I leave the surface, I know 100% I’m going to the bottom and back. But when you get to 10 metres deep that pressure on your chest can trick you into thinking you haven’t taken a big enough breath.”
“I kind of quickly dismiss that; I know I packed tons of air in. But when you’re starting to freedive you always get things that freak you out; it’s how you deal with them in the moment that’s the real challenge,” he continued.
On ‘clutch’ moments
“I see a massive correlation between [these freakouts when] freediving and staying calm on land,” Ant told us. “And the biggest thing is what I call self-leadership – the ability to stay calm under pressure; to trust that no matter what happens you’ve got the ability to deal with whatever comes up – and the confidence to back yourself and the preparation you’ve done.”
“It’s going to be really hard and scary, but that’s why you did the training.”
Most importantly: “It might look extreme or abstract but it’s a really important life lesson – how to manage yourself through moments of performance where things aren’t going your way; magnificent for teaching you how to stay calm under pressure.”
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“In leadership scenarios,” Ant told us, “If you’re massively under the pump and something’s gone wrong, as a leader you can get upset and emotional but it’s not going to help the group.”
“Even in family life, if you’ve had a challenging event, [using these techniques] can help you stay grounded and emotionally connected – but also confident in your ability to manage the situation.”
A personal example of this, Ant tells us, is when he went big wave surfing – a sport he’s not comfortable with – to a spot that “really frightens” him.
“I had a situation last winter where I went to quite a remote spot with a friend– one where it doesn’t really start breaking until it gets to about 8 feet – and it was 14 foot, which is way bigger than anything I’d ever surfed,” he told us.
“We had to climb down a steep muddy bank, jump off a rock shelf and paddle through the death zone to get out to the break. Then sets would come that are bigger than 14 feet,” he added.
“I remember a set came through that cleaned us both up. This pulled on those [freediving] abilities to stay super calm and deal with the unknown.”
If you have a stressful situation coming up, train for it with the meticulousness of a freediver. Then, once the day hits: stay in the moment, trust your preparation and remind yourself – at least you’re not 70 metres underwater.