What I learnt from Mark Mathews
One of my favourite things about interviewing some of the highest achievers from around the world is finding out gems that I can share to help us all with our challenges on our journey.
There is something about surfing that intrigues me. At times what they do just defies the possible, there is just so much that goes into it and they do it all in the ocean, out of the comfort zone of the land.
The patience required to wait for the right wave and the perseverance despite at times unpredictable conditions and circumstances.
There is just so much talent from one of the greatest ever in Kelly Slater, who has been challenged over the years by our local guys like Occy, Parko and Fanning. Then there’s another crop of talent, those guys who don’t compete on the tour but chase big waves for living, guys like Laird Hamilton, Koby Abberton and Mark Mathews.
I was lucky enough to interview one of the best out there in Mark, who invited me into his home in Maroubra to get insights into his life and how he has reached the top.
For the level he has achieved, Mark was scared in the water as a boy, his mum having to rescue him as he feared trying to get back in. How cruel sports & adventure can be, late last year on the NSW South Coast, Mark was slammed into the ref and survived some horrific injuries. He was an hour they reckon from losing his leg, his injuries a dislocated knee, snapped both anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments, severely damaged an important nerve and tore an artery.
Despite the injury and against the wishes of his Doctors, Mark still has ambition to make a return. Why wouldn’t he, anyone who can come out of that accident with the mindset he has, never can be discounted, and by the look in his eye you can see that the man is much more than an athlete.
My conversation with Mark had some great stories and inspiration.
Listen to the entire episode on the player below or continue for my key takeaways from his journey.
THE DYNAMIC OF FEAR
It’s an interesting how we all handle fear. Some people can compete in Combat sports or do extreme activities where they risk harm or even their lives but struggle when speaking in front of people or in social situations. Mark brings up an interesting perspective of the dynamic of fear:
“When anyone looks into their own fears, I’ll guarantee you that the majority of stress your fear as an individual will be an egoic type of fear. Like a sense of self, not wanting to fail or get embarrassed, we always pigeon hole it in a sense of danger of getting hurt, I surf big waves professional and that’s still only 10-20% of the stress I deal with, that’s the interesting dynamic of fear. For me I can be more scared of public speaking then surfing 40 foot waves. The one distinguishing factor and this is the thing with UFC, athletics and sport distinguishes, in big wave surfing there is that fear of drowning and dying which is scary, with UFC when you chat to most of fighters, there not that scared of getting hurt their biggest fear is losing in front of an audience and letting the team down”"
SET THE BAR HIGH
“I don’t have that many people backing me, the doctors don’t like it but I’m hoping to be surfing solid waves December next year. Set the high goals, chase them and be happy with where you get to. For me a high goal is winter next year be able to surf decent waves and end of year surf Hawaii”
Despite his injuries, Mark has set himself a huge goal of returning to the surf. Some people may think his crazy, his doctors are not happy with it, but like Mark I’m a huge believer in setting the bar high. For me set it high, you have nothing to lose even if you only get 80 or 90 percent there that’s more than if you set it low and only achieve 80 or 90 percent of that.
WHO ARE LEADERS
I think we all can be guilty of looking up to people we practically don’t know because we get exposed to them daily on social media (think Gary Vee, Grant Cardone, Elon Musk, etc). Their great people and achieved a lot but sometimes I think it more important to look to people already in our circles and doing great things in our community, as Mark explains:
“I have some local people that I’m close too and I watch how they do what they do, they manage a handful of companies. Even people who work in the surf club with kids or teachers I kind of pick up on what they do. It’s not like it has to be anything amazing, everyone’s a leader when you break it down within the dynamics with what you do”
BUILD COMMUNICATION & TRUST WITH YOUR TEAM
“I always find working with my team, someone has to make the final decision usually that’s me, but in saying that those guys know their roles the photographer, videographer, the safety guy, better than I do. I need to know from them what their thinking and the relationship has to be good, I have to trust these guys and they have to trust me”
Rarely do you see someone achieve on their own, the inner circle and support system is a huge part of success. A big part of it is that is communication, trust & bonds within the team which leads to efficient & effective work and getting faster to to the end goal.
“I’m not complaining, even with the disability I’ve got now I don’t even care. If someone said to me you can have 15 years of being a professional surfer, travel the world, surf all these waves, but when that’s up you’re going to have this disability to carry through the back end of your life and I’d have to make that decision I’d make it, it’s worth it for me”
Sometimes it’s the simple things that will make us happiest. Now you must be asking how exactly does Mark practice gratitude after everything that’s happened, well he gives us an inside look:
“Gratitude techniques are one of the most effective and scientifically proven ways to deal with stress and anxiety. One of the most powerful ways to flip your body from a sympathetic nervous system state and flip back into a parasympathetic state when your nervous system functions at its highest level. The techniques are so simple, sit down with a pen and paper and write 3 things that you’re happy about and you can feel it straight away, you got to build that habit, the way you think now”
CHALLENGES TO GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
“The fast track was when I moved down here and started surfing with Kobe Abberton and his brothers and other surfers. Not only were they the best coaches but ruthless. It was like if you don’t get the biggest wave of the session where ever we are here in Sydney you got to work home. It was freezing, bare foot and it just pushed me out of my comfort zone and I could see what I could do. I would have never naturally found that out unless I was pushed pretty hard, so I will also be some-what in debited to that experience”
Tough love, that’s how it all started for him, but to continue to test and challenge yourself is one of the true keys of success. Another example of surrounding yourself with people that will continue to push and challenge you and for Mark people that became his family.
If Mark’s story doesn’t motivate you, I’m not sure what will be sure to continue to follow Mark on his journey:
He continues to dream of his return and he inspires now through his story, you do get the impression that his story is also just at the beginning despite what he already has achieved.
Use Mark’s story to inspire you to do something great today.