Soaking in a bath full of animal entrails isn’t a requirement of being a top-class professional. Nor is having an SAS soldier shout in your face so hard you get spit in your eyes, or being woken up every half hour by a sadistic member of the Russian Spetsnaz. However, guts, resilience and insight are needed if you want to reach your full potential, and those are the characteristics that Dr Clare Miller, Haematology doctor and winner of BBC2’s Special Forces Ultimate Hell Week 2015, has with plenty to spare.
So, at a time when professionals have never had to step so far out of their comfort zones to stay ahead of the game, the BDLN met up with ‘Miller the Machine’ to see what she could teach us.
1) Winning is an afterthought
One of the most interesting things Clare told us is that she did not enter the programme to win, and winning was never her priority.
“My over-riding objective was to be able to say at the end of it all that I could not have pushed myself any harder,” Clare says. “There were a small number of individuals who I did end up feeling competitive towards because I sensed they desperately wanted to win. But most of us became friends. And in the final run, when it was down to the last three, I was definitely not thinking: ‘I really want to beat these guys’. Not setting an expectation to win definitely helped.”
We believe that this mindset is of relevance for professionals. Trying your best and working well with your team is more important than ‘winning’ as an individual. More than that, wanting to win from a personal perspective risks putting you at odds with your colleagues.
The people who could keep a smile on their faces and lift morale were the people you really wanted to be around
2) Morale boosters are worth their weight
At times during the filming, Clare and the others were pushed to their limits and made to feel incredibly low. During those periods certain people were able to lift spirits, which got the group through the dip.
“Teamwork was really important,” Clare says. “We were all struggling so much but a couple of people just brought brilliant things. Danny had this beautiful smile all the time and was able to give a hug at the right time, and Brassington brought his humour. The people who could keep a smile on their faces and lift morale were the people you really wanted to be around.”
This is true at work too – firms should never underestimate people who elevate morale.
3) Prepare hard and intelligently
Not surprisingly, Clare put in a huge amount of prep work before the programme began.
“I went pretty crazy about getting ready,” says Clare. “I was up at 4.30am everyday to train and to do yoga. I trained twice a day and researched by speaking to several people with military backgrounds like my British Military Fitness Instructor, Al Clark. One time I met him at Wormwood Scrubs at 6 a.m. and the first thing he did was throw a bucket of freezing cold water on me. I was prepared for the show to be as tough as it was because I learned everything that I could about military selection.”
This level of preparation was arguably the biggest factor in Clare’s triumph. This can certainly teach us professionals a thing or two; put in the groundwork and talk to the right people in order to get the right intelligence.
4) Hard work negates fear of failure
On the times when she thought she was about to be eliminated, Clare says: “There was nothing I could do about it. I knew that if I went, it would be because they’d say I wasn’t good enough. I felt OK with that because I knew I was giving it my all.”
This is inspirational insight for professionals who fear rejection (all of us!), particularly when trying to win new business. There’s no shame in losing out or being rejected if you’re giving it your all. So pick up the phone… what have you got to lose?
I knew that if I went, it would be because they’d say I wasn’t good enough. I felt OK with that because I knew I was giving it my all
5) Leaders must be decisive
During the challenges, members of the group being filmed took it in turns to be leaders. Clare says; “The leaders who struggled were those who appeared to be indecisive. That was obvious. When people are indecisive you start to question their leadership credentials.”
This is another lesson with real relevance for professionals. Being a leader requires showing leadership. It sounds obvious. But, if you avoid making decisions and always strive for decision by committee, others will lose faith in you and the cracks will begin to show.
6) A by-product of trying harder than everyone else is winning
The final observation that Clare makes is that she believes that she would have lost the final challenge had her two competitors been trying as hard as she was: “The two guys I was racing in the final run were better runners than me. The truth of why I won is that I was simply trying harder than they were. When I finished, I couldn’t speak I was so out of breath, but the other two could still chat in full sentences. I was just trying harder. That’s honestly it.”
The truth of why I won is that I was simply trying harder than they were
And that gets to the heart of the matter. Clare won because – somewhat ironically – she didn’t focus on winning. Instead, she zoomed in on trying her hardest and preparing to the best of her ability. This meant that she had no fear of failure because, in her mind, trying her hardest meant she had already achieved her goal.
That’s a fantastic lesson for anyone; especially ambitious professionals.