Brendan: Welcome to The Culture of Leadership. We have conversations that help you develop and become a more confident leader.
What life-changing moment have you had? Statistically, very few people have had a life-changing moment like my next guest. This is my conversation with Brett Connellan.
In March 2016, whilst surfing, Brett was attacked by a great white shark. He was inches from death. We briefly talked about the attack, but the shark attack is just a small part of his story. As Brett explains, it was this life-changing moment that was the catalyst for many more.
His greatest life-changing moment was his ability to develop a distinct mindset towards resilience. It’s resilience that’s helped him become the impactful leader he is today. Brett’s inspiring spirit is set to be showcased in a documentary called Attacking Life releasing on Stan on the 9th of March, 2023. You won’t want to miss it. This is the The Culture of Leadership podcast. I’m Brendan Rogers. Sit back and enjoy my conversation with Brett.
What was Brett Connellan like pre 2016? You're only 22 when it happened, wasn't it?
Brett: Yeah. I was 22 at the time of the said shark attack.
Brendan: Pointing to all this event, mate.
Brett: Yeah. Before that point, I was 100% ingrained and involved in surfing. My entire life was just anything to do with surfing. I loved it and I was involved with it. It was not only a sport I enjoyed doing, I did it competitively. It was my dream to make it into the world tour and stuff like that.
I think everyone has that dream as a young kid, but that's something that I held for a long time, especially as I got older and continued to surf competitively. Even my job was in surfing. I always had the idea that I'd love to make the tour. But if that didn't work out, I wanted to be somewhere in the industry.
When I finished school, I went and did surfing studies at university, which is a course up on the Gold Coast there. That was me moving away from home, being independent, and going and doing that. When I came back, I actually started my own surf school, managed a surf shop. Everything in my life was all to do with surfing.
I always talk about the difference between me before and me after. I'm sure we'll go into this a little bit later on. Even down to where I would go on holidays, I would never even consider going on holiday somewhere if there wasn't a possibility of me surfing.
The answer to that question, who was Brett before the attack, is just a surfer, someone that was 100% in love with the sport, the community, and everything about it. That was a big part of who I was and a big part of my direction in life. It was all just chasing this lifestyle of either being a professional surfer or doing something within that industry somewhere.
Brendan: In saying that, what traits did you have?
Brett: I always say I was pretty driven especially to be the best surfer that I could have been. The primary goal was trying to chase that dream of becoming a pro. Surfing as much as possible, getting into training, being committed to events, and things like that. That's one side of things.
I'd say there's a certain amount of dedication that it takes to wake up every single morning when it's cold in winter, you don't want to go surfing, and making yourself go out when it's awful in order to try and get better. I'd say that was one part of it. Another part of it that I think also relates to being a surfer is this slightly selfish (I suppose) point of view. There is a selfish drive when it comes to being a surfer.
I always say this is something that surfers probably wouldn't agree with, especially when you're deep in the sport, but it is a very selfish thing. Obviously, it's an individual sport. It's something that you do for personal glory in a way. Especially when you're competing, it's you versus everyone else.
It's pretty brutal in that regard as well. But even just when you're surfing, normally, you want to be on the best way of the day. If someone else is on the best way of the day—not everyone's like this but I certainly was—I would want that to be me. I'd say I was a very competitive person because I did have this overwhelming desire to try and make surfing work.
I did take it incredibly seriously, probably too serious for what a lot of people do. The reason that a lot of people do pick up surfing is just because it's fun, it's healthy, it's great to be outside in nature. But I think it's a little bit different when you have this goal of trying to be a professional surfer. You need to take it. Every surf counts as far as getting better. They're probably the traits that I would say define me as a surfer.
I was very driven, very hungry, probably a little bit selfish in a way, but at the same time, pretty quiet. I was pretty reserved with my goals. I never really vocalized the fact that I wanted to make the tour. It was something that I held pretty close to me.
That's a strange one because I remember when I was younger and doing all these surfing camps. They would always have a bit about mindset and being confident when you're going into heats. I would come across kids sometimes that would be overconfident, not only in their ability but that's how they were going to go into the heat, take all the best waves, and they're like, yeah, I'm going to go out there and I'm going to win, I'm going to be the person who's going to make it through this heat.
I just wasn't really like that, but there was a fire within me that once I hit the water, I knew that this was my moment, it was me versus everyone else. It wasn't really that outward, really over competitiveness, but it was really competitive within myself. I think the hard thing with surfing is there's a lot of failure that comes along with it.
I did learn a lot about failing because my dad always told me it's a brutal sport to watch your kids do, because everyone surfs for 20 minutes and half of the field goes home after that 20. There's only one winner at the end of the day, so a lot of people are going to go home disappointed. I think dealing with that, I was never great at losing. I would always shut down, don't want to talk to anyone, be upset and stuff like that. I'm sure most kids are, but I did take that stuff really personally.
I was not at the top of the sport when I was growing up. I was good, but not one of the ones with a huge amount of promise where you could pick out and say, you're definitely going to do stuff with surfing in your life. It was something that came along later. I actually developed a lot more when I got smarter and could start to surf heats properly.
Because of that, I think learning how to lose and learning how to react in those situations definitely helped me later on. When we do get into those life-changing incidents and we do talk about the shark attack, I think having that mindset has helped me a little bit in dealing with loss in a weird way. I'm not sure if that's all I put it down to, but I learned a lot through being a surfer growing up and everything that comes with that.
Brendan: It certainly sounds like you had a lot of great traits. I think I've read lots of stories about professional athletes. A lot of them talk about that level of selfishness needed in order to be the best at what you wanted to do, so I certainly understand where you're coming from.
Let's talk about the attack now. As we've said and in prepping for the show, we don't want this to be the be-all and end-all of the show, but it needs to set the context, then where we're moving forward, what you're particularly doing, all these great things you've been doing, and plan to do into the future. Tell us a bit about this day in early 2016.
Brett: I think the easiest way to talk about the attack without doing the play by play, as I suppose you described it, is to talk about as a life-changing moment because the attack did obviously change my life in a significant way. I do often get asked the question, what was the moment that you knew that everything was going to change, that everything was going to be different? I think there's a number of different points throughout the attack itself that I could point to and be like that's that sliding doors moment, where you know everything's going to be different, you know everything's going to change.
I probably would weigh it up between a couple. The first one would be the moment when you realize what's happening. When you're sitting there on your surfboard, get hit from the right side by what feels like a bus, and thrown off your surfboard. Before you can even look around to see what that was, there's a shark biting your leg. That's the moment where time slows down to the point of stopping, and you're taking in all the fine details like the feel of the shark skin, the lack of sound in that moment, even the the look in the shark's eyes, which is something that can invoke a lot of terror in a lot of people.
I think just looking into the shark's eyes and their eyes that have no remorse, it's something that you can't reason with. You can't tell it to stop. In a weird way, sharks, I do have a lot of respect for them now from that image in knowing that it was just doing something that it's been designed to do over thousands of years, which is to find things to hunt and kill. I was just unlucky to be prey at that moment.
I think the moment of realizing the enormity of your worst nightmares coming to fruition like in front of you, that could be the moment that I was like, my life is going to change. I think there's probably too much action in that moment to say that was it.
The second moment I'd probably point to was, after I made the mistake of pulling away from the shark which is a natural reaction, but as the shark is grabbing onto my leg and you pull away from it, it doesn't let go. It holds on to that bit of flesh. From pulling away from the shark, I sacrificed a large chunk of my left leg in order to try and escape.
The next moment is as I'm swimming towards the beach, swimming for my life and having this thought come over me, which is, I wonder if this shark's going to come back the second time. That's almost as terrifying as that first moment of looking down and seeing what's happening because in having that thought, I look over my shoulder, actually see it coming back, and was able to put my hands out just in time to try and stop it.
The feeling with my hands both planted on its nose, it pushed me through the water. There's the sinking feeling of, am I ever going to be able to escape this thing? It's already taken a chunk of my leg, it swung back, and it's coming back again. Is it going to give up? There's a lot of unknown.
I think the feeling of helplessness in a moment like that could be something where you get a lot of perspective on how incredible this creature is at what it's doing, but how insignificant, small, and weak you feel in a moment like that. That could be a moment.
The third one I'd probably point to would be when my good friend, Joel, hears my screams for help, and bravely and luckily paddles towards me. At this point, the waves hit me and I'm actually away from the shark because it pushed me far enough from standing up. It's about waist deep. He drags me into the beach, essentially saving my life just by taking me towards the shore.
He drags me out the sand and runs off to get some help. The moment of laying there, realizing the enormity of I've just been attacked by a shark, although I haven't looked down at my leg yet, I don't know how bad the damage is, but I know it's serious because I'm starting to feel lightheaded. I know I've lost a lot of blood.
Seeing Joel's reaction, my friend that saved me, seeing his reaction, I knew it was bad. Even down to the fact that my stomach is hurting, my organs starting to shut down, I know this is serious. That feeling of, is this what it feels like to die, I think that's not a moment many people get to experience. That could be that could easily be one where I look back on and say, that was the moment I knew my life is going to change forever as well.
When I weigh up all those things within the attack, I think the moment that truly (I suppose) impacted me in a significant way was when I woke up in a hospital and got to take stock of the situation, and reflect a little bit about what had happened. Waking up in hospital, talking to doctors, they've told me the damage, like, you've lost three quarters of your left quad, you're lucky to be alive, but we're trying to figure out how to save your leg. We're looking into different operations, so we won't have to amputate.
The enormity of something like that, losing your leg in amputation, is scary enough. They go on to do two operations where they clean up my leg and decide that they can do an operation they've only ever done once before, where they take my left Lat muscle from my back and implant that into my quad where I'd lost all that muscle. The reason they did that was to cover the bone, so then the leg would actually stay alive and they wouldn't have to amputate it. After that, they're giving me the prognosis of what to expect moving forwards. This is where they tell me, losing three quarters of your left quad is no joke.
The function that a quad has is significant in helping you walk. That's going to be a massive mountain to climb in order to just walk again. Then they go on to say, that's going to have impacts on you being active. They're like, you're never going to surf again. Hearing them say, you're never going to surf again, the only thing I said for sure, like it was 100% you're never going to surf again, whereas the other one's like, walking is going to be a big mountain to climb, being active is going to be a massive challenge, but you will never surf again was the thing that changed my life forever because of the person that I was.
I mentioned earlier all the ways my life was involved in surfing. Hearing those words, it's like tearing away my purpose, my identity as a person because surfing was all that I had. For me, it was laying in that hospital bed, feeling overwhelmingly alone and isolated, and having these thoughts of what my life is going to look like without surfing is the moment I knew that it was going to take a completely different road to the one that I was currently on.
I'd say that was, in a way, probably the best way to recount the attack in the lens of a life-changing moment because at that point, I didn't know what the path forward looked like. I didn't know what I was going to be able to do in order to walk again, let alone try and get back in the water and surf or anything like that. That was a moment that caused me to really sit back and reflect on a lot of things in life, not just in surfing, but other things that meant a lot to me.
There was a lot of uncertainty at that moment. There was a lot of, I had no idea what to expect over the next coming months or years or what my life would look like in the future. That was a really tough place to be in. I suppose being in that situation when you do feel so alone, so isolated. It was not only laying there with a physical injury, but it was really starting to affect me mentally as well.
People say, hitting rock bottom is the time to make a change. You don't always have to hit a rock bottom. But it's noticing that point where you have to actually step back and ask yourself what you're going to do moving forward. Are you going to be defined by this thing that's happened to you or are you going to try your best? It's not easy in a lot of moments, but try your best to look at it in a slightly different perspective and try and make the best effort you can to move forward with whatever it is that you've got in front of you.
For me, in those times, it was just the uncertainty that I really, really struggled with. The biggest challenge moving forward was to try to overcome that in order to try to progress and make some sort of life of the expectations that I had.
Brendan: Was there a defining moment that you turned this event and your mindset around into something that could become more positive? If so, what was that defining time?
Brett: The defining moment was, usually, these are the hard ones to pick up, especially as you're going through it. Obviously, the support that I had was huge, especially in the early days when I felt a little bit less alone. I would say hospitals are a really hard place to spend time when you're in a situation like that because it is really, really lonely. Not only did I feel isolated from what I was going through by being the only person that had been attacked by a shark, the odds of being attacked by a shark are one in 3.6 million.
You feel pretty statistically isolated in a time like that. I think the times where you feel the most alone, it's when at night times, I always say, in a hospital because that's when all the support goes home. It's just you laying in a hospital bed with your thoughts. As much support as I had, I still really struggled in those moments.
Support is great. I was overwhelmed with the amount of messages that I had. I always say it sucks that it takes something negative for you to realize the amount of support that's out there, but it's often just the way that these things work. There was one message in particular that completely shifted my perspective on my whole recovery, and it came from someone who's integral from my recovery in the end, which is my physiotherapist. His name's Scott Muttdon.
He sent me a message when I was still in hospital, early days, just introducing himself. He was actually a friend of Joel's. He just said, I run a local physiotherapy clinic in Claymore. I'm not sure what your plans are for rehab when you get out. But if you want to work with us, we'd love to help you get better.
Just hearing that tangible help was a big difference maker for me because wishes are great and they do make you feel supported, but it's not until someone says like, I want to help you get better, I want to see you take those first steps. That for me was a big shift in knowing that there's more support out there than just these messages.
Obviously, I was stoked with that. I replied to him and said, I can't wait. I'd love to get in there and work with you. This is the moment I'd say it turned it around where he said, that's great, I'll see you soon. Just a few words of advice. He said, you've obviously got a long and hard road ahead of you. He said, people don't fail from aiming too high and missing, they fail from aiming too low and hitting. He said, look ahead with determination and set lofty goals.
He's obviously talking about it in the goal-setting sense. That just got me to look at the expectations that had been given by doctors and got me to sit back and ask myself, am I going to be defined by these expectations that the doctors had for me? They're notorious for giving the worst case scenario because they have to. It's hard as a patient to hear that, but you have to ask yourself, am I going to be defined by these expectations or am I going to try the most with the opportunity that I do have in order to make the most out of my situation?
I was looking at what the doctors have said and what I could do to actually try and bounce back. I always laugh about this because that caused me to set the biggest goal that I could think of at that moment, which was walking again. I thought that I was being so heroic and I was being so amazing by saying, I'm going to get out of this hospital bed, I'm going to get back on my feet, I'm going to walk again.
In the moment, it felt really empowering to be able to do that. But when I first got out of hospital, I met Scott, and I hit him with that goal. I was like, I'm going to kind of walk again. He was like, I've already planned for you to get back to work and to get around town. You're going to be walking again. He's like, I want you to look higher now, I want you to look at surfing again. It wasn't until there was that moment of, oh, I actually realized what he meant by that message.
Even for me who had this amazing moment of clarity where I was like, I'm going to defy what the doctors have told me, I still wasn't aiming high enough. I suppose the beauty in aiming higher than what you expect yourself and what other people expect is, if you have a goal, you're going to do everything you can to try and achieve it. Whether it be something in recovery, whether it be something personal, or something in business, if you set something, it doesn't just happen overnight. You've got to actually put things in place to try to achieve it.
By putting things in place, you're going to give yourself the best chance of achieving this amazing thing that you've set for yourself. But often, if you even get halfway there, you're going to surpass what a lot of these expectations were below. For me, to actually get back to work, that was well surpassing my goal of trying to just walk again.
Something that has definitely flowed into my life later on is the way in which you can set ambitious goals, and not only just to look at what the top goal is but all the things that you can achieve on the way to getting there.
That was the moment for me where I was like, okay, if I'm going to set this goal of surfing, it's not just something I'm going to set because it's something that feels good, it feels right, it feels nice to prove the doctors wrong, and everything like that. There are going to be certain points along there where I'm going to reach them. It is going to be a massive improvement on the person that not only I thought I was going to be, but the doctors and everyone around me had hoped for me as well.
That message from Scott and just the mindset of how you can look at a challenge or how you can look at your own situation, was a big way in helping me to actually look at it as a growing opportunity, because that's definitely not something I was looking at as a growing opportunity early on when you've lost so much. I think that perspective was one of the big things that helped me shift my entire mindset towards the challenge that was now in front of me.
Brendan: That's a very special defining moment. It's such a beautiful leadership example, to be honest. The way I would wrap that up is you just had somebody who actually believed in your greater potential, and also had the skill set to help you reach your greater potential. That must have been enormous for you.
Brett: Definitely. I think that there's a lot to be said about working with the right people. Scott's not someone that I had just worked with through the recovery. He's been ever present in my life ever since. I actually saw him yesterday as well.
He's been a massive support to me in a number of different ways. That's something that I looked at early on and noticed the importance of having people to not only help you achieve your goals in the physical sense or in actually getting there to take them, but having someone to support you through that. Whether it be a coach, a good friend, or someone that can just give you a bit of perspective, was incredibly important.
I looked at how a lot of other people go through, especially physical setbacks in their life, where they might have an injury or something like that. You have amazing support when you're in hospital, but when you leave there, you left to figure it out by yourself. It's only really due to fortune or luck that you can come across someone that can help you in more than one way like I was lucky to have with Scott.
I suppose that was part of my reason for wanting to share my story later on because I know that a lot of people do need that bit of perspective on their setbacks or their own journey that they're on, which is sometimes a really hard thing to find.
Brendan: Have you ever considered the traits that served you well in wanting and believing you can aspire to Scott's helping you set this hairy audacious goal, that shark attack pre-bred, and what you've had in place? What were your traits, your DNA aspects, that helped you believe you could actually do that and make the steps to do it?
Brett: There were certain traits that I had beforehand, the surfer or the competitor that I was beforehand. I was always aiming for this goal of being a professional surfer, which is incredibly unattainable when you look at it statistically. There are 36 people that get to compete on the world tour. That's the dream that everyone wants to live.
There are millions of surfers out there. In order to have that as a goal, it is very, very audacious. The chances of it actually happening, you are competing against a lot of people to try and break through on to try and get there. I think maybe having that mindset was beneficial in just looking at the fact that even though I did have this big goal, if I couldn't do it, then how was I going to deal with the likelihood of failure or the likelihood of not being able to achieve it?
I think that's the way in which I structured my life beforehand. I had a plan B, a backup, or something that I could lean on where I was at least able to do that or I now have this opportunity in front of me. I think that was something that probably when I look at it, I haven't really considered the traits that I had beforehand and how they've affected me throughout that recovery. That's probably one that I would say is an important one that not only just in a recovery like that, that's important in all aspects of life.
There are a lot of people that have a difficult time dealing with failure. If anything that'll usually stop people from taking the first step, rather than getting three quarters of the way through and realizing it's too tough, there are definitely people that are willing to try anything. Now they're the ones that will realize it by trying it, trying something again, and trying something again.
A lot of people, especially in my life that I talked to about this, struggled to take that first step because of that fear of failure down the track. I think that's something that does come through. I will say it's a lot easier to take the second step and the third step than it is that very first one.
In order to be able to do those in the first place, you need to actually just have that almost just-do-it attitude, but it's with a bit of caution in looking at what goals you're setting and having that purpose to it as well, I think.
Brendan: You talked about mindset earlier as well, and certainly takes extreme strength of mind. Were there any particular strategies or things that helped you in that mindset space to get through?
Brett: I hadn't thought about it too much. It wasn't really until I got into my recovery that I learned a little bit more about that. I was doing the recovery at the start based on necessity. I needed to get back to a basic way of life. In order to do that, I needed to go and stand on my feet for hours just in order to be able to wait there and stuff like that. That had let me go to the kitchen or go to the toilet. When that's your only option to live, it is out of necessity. And it doesn't take too much of a mindset.
I didn't find it or too much of a mindset in that moment, it's different for everyone. But when I got into the more progressive parts of the recovery, starting to walk again, learning to run, and working towards that goal of surfing, it wasn't until I ran into another professional surfer who gave me a great bit of advice.
I ran into him by chance just to the cafe close by where I live. He had actually suffered a serious injury around the same time as me. His was a brain injury, so it's not one where he could work on a physical recovery. His is more him being patient and just working at the little things every single day.
The bit of advice that he gave me was, it's not about necessarily making these enormous leaps every time you go to the gym or every time you go into recovery. He's like, the thing you want to focus on is just being a little bit better than yesterday, just making sure you do something to improve the person that you were yesterday. Over time, those things will add up.
I think that was a big way of helping me to actually come to terms with what the recovery was going to be like because at the start, the leaps and bounds felt like leaps and bounds. But as I got further and further into it, the gains got smaller and smaller. It's a little bit harder to be okay with putting in the same amount of effort, but getting a little bit less in return.
Having that mindset, it made me realize that yes, it was going to be a long road. It was still going to be difficult, even though I'd had this early success. But if I was going to get to where I wanted to get eventually, then the mindset was going to be about taking those small steps and not necessarily looking at the peak of the mountain at all times. It was just one step in front of the other.
I don't know if that's the biggest cliche ever, and you've probably heard yourself a number of different times, but it's a cliche for a reason. It's cliche because it's true. If we can just focus on doing that little bit every single day, they'll add up over time and hopefully get you to where you want to go.
Brendan: In doing that little bit each and every day, I have to ask, do you know exactly how many surfs you've had since you set your goal of I'm going to surf again?
Brett: I have no idea at this stage. It's been a while. It took me five months from attack to getting in the water again, which seems like a very short amount of time, especially based on what my expectations were in the start. When I say getting back in the water, that was a surf on a longboard in very small waves, more just for the purpose of getting in the water, not so much for the purpose of being the surfer that I was before.
The process of getting back on the board was almost just like another step along the way. When I was able to start surfing, that's when things made a bit more sense to me because the progression was something that I related to, and it was almost like starting the sport again. I'd been through that learning curve before. It was starting on a longboard, making sure I was in the water as much as possible, and then I'd slowly progress. I'd go from like a longboard to a mini mal, then on to a fish, and a smaller board with a little bit more performance.
The whole goal there was I really wanted to get back, compete again, and essentially regain the surfing that I had for such a large period of my life. Being able to step back on a board was an amazing feeling. Not only just being able to go back in the water and how great that made me feel, but there's also that feeling of being able to tick off this enormous goal that I had set with Scott. Everyone says it must have felt good to go back into the doctor's office and show him a photo of you surfing. It's almost like the big stuff here to the doctors.
I always felt that if it weren't for the doctors telling me that that was not going to be achievable, then I don't think it would have felt the same. I don't think I would have had the same perspective as I did. I've actually seen my surgeon a bunch of times since as well. He's someone who is great to bounce off because he's just amazed.
He's like, I can't believe that you are not only doing the things that you're doing, but showing me that I can do that surgery on other people and show them what you're doing. That's that hope that, as bad as their situation is, then look at what is possible, even though the outlook in the beginning may look bleak. It's more about just looking at your own situation and asking yourself what you can do in order to make the most of that.
I think it is hard to say. I've counted the amount of surf since and looked at those little bits of improvement or those little steps every single day, but I do take a lot of stock in the perspective that I've been able to gain afterwards.
Hindsight is an amazing tool and something that I make sure I use as often as possible. Whether it's talking about my experience, whether it's reconnecting with those people throughout my experience to look at how much I've grown since then, or even just looking back on my photos.
I started a journal where I write about certain experiences I've been through and a lot of other things as well. A big reason for that is just to make sure I can keep learning from my own experience because it is very valuable not only to other people but to me as well.
Brendan: From your journal, I have to say I do love the sweet-sour-banana concept. It's just humorous to our listeners a little bit because I think people can get a lot from this, absolutely. Just describe to us a little bit about the sweet-sour-banana concept.
Brett: This is something that came about when we were in Hawaii filming for my documentary. There was a crew of 10 of us that were over there. It was to shoot my big goal at the time, which was to paddle between Molokai Island and Oahu. We had five guys that were over there to film that, then we all took our partners over there as well and made it into a little bit of a holiday. We'd go off, we'd be filming all day, and then we'd all connect at night over dinner or something like that.
We would go through the sweet-sour-banana of everyone's days. That consists of the best part of your day which is the sweet, then the sour which is the worst part of your day, and then the banana which is the funniest part of your day. It was just a really good way of reflecting on everyone's days.
It's really hard to remember those unless you actually address them and address them to a group. You think it'd be easy to remember the best, the worst, and the funniest part of your day. But so often, you sit down and you're like, what was the funniest part of my day? It forces you to actually think about the day. It is a really good reflecting exercise, but it got us to connect. It was really funny as well.
It's been a constant that we kept doing it even after we came back from Hawaii. I thought it was just good to do for my entire year. I wrote about that for the journal and it helped me reflect on what was a really, really big year, in a bit more depth than I was able to achieve this goal, because it got me to look at the good, the bad, and also the funny as well.
Brendan: I absolutely love it. Did you know that whenever Richmond won the flag in maybe 2018 or something, one of the things they put it down to was they did a similar thing with their team regularly, and it was hero-hardship-highlight is what they called it, so a similar concept. If you don't mind, I might use sweet, sour, and banana every now and again with some clients because again, the concept is great. You used the word fantastic connection. It's all about creating connections, isn't it?
Brett: Definitely. The other thing is you can reflect on someone else's day as well as you can reflect on yours. Connection does help us be more one when it comes to our own experiences and learning. You don't have to just learn from your experience. You can learn from others as well. That's the beauty of the connection there as well.
Brendan: Obviously, you had a very, very significant life-changing event in the shark attack. I'm not going to sit here and say let's hope people have a shark attack, have an event like that and it will change their life (so to speak) like it has yours. But we all have life-changing events, difficult circumstances in our life. With what you've been through and what you've learned on this journey, what advice would you give to people who are experiencing tough times, been through life-changing events?
Brett: That relates to a question that I get asked a lot. It's like the question to a younger you. It's not necessarily advice to younger you, but I always say that I wouldn't believe the advice that I would give myself. I would love to sit down with 12-year-old Brett and tell him everything I've been through and everything I've learned, but I don't think I truly would have understood it until I went through it for myself.
A big part of that is knowing that the setbacks that we have, these challenges that we have in life, are part of being human. We're not going to avoid them for our entire lives. As bad as they can be in some circumstances, they are an opportunity to learn and they are an opportunity to grow, especially with time and especially with having the right people around you and going about it the right way. I always say, I hope for a lot of people, it's not a shark attack, but everyone will have their own version of a shark attack.
A big reason for wording it like that is because one thing that I don't want people to take away from my story when they hear it is when they're going through their own challenges is to look at me and be like, oh, what I'm going through is nothing because he got attacked by a shark. It's like the starving kids in Africa clause because there are starving kids in Africa. There's always going to be someone worse off. But if we keep saying, what about them, what about them, we're never going to truly be able to look at our own experience of what we're going through and to be able to act on that.
It's not about what happens to you, it's really about how you respond. It does suck, but the things that happen to us often can be terrible. They can be tragic. They're not often a great time to go through. But what we can really do is focus on what we can do to bounce back, how we can look at that situation in order to grow, and to learn a little bit about ourselves and in the world as well.
Another one of my favorite things that I've heard is that we've all got two lives. Our second one begins when we realize that we've only got one life. We'll all realize that at some stage, it's just about what you do with that information from thereafter that defines the type of person that you'll be remembered as when it's all said and done.
Brendan: Have you ever reflected on why people don't take that perspective? We all only have one life. What we do with it, we have very much control over what we can do with our life. What do you think where people don't take that opportunity?
Brett: I think because it is such an existential question that's posed, there's no true answer to it. It's not a formula that gets solved as soon as you realize that. Even for me, who's come so close to death and knows exactly what it's like to experience the fragility of life, I still find myself reflecting on awakened being, like did I make the most of that? Am I doing everything I can to be the person that I want to be?
The reality is that we can't expect ourselves to be like that at all times because we're human. Humans are flawed. Part of the great thing about being a human, in a way, is that we'll never truly, truly understand it.
I was hearing something described the other day about how insignificant we are as human beings when you look at how lucky our planet is to be here, how lucky we are to be alive. Even just looking at that, we should be grateful for every single day that we've gotten. Unfortunately, you have to go to a very, very dark place and realize how insignificant and small we are in the grand scheme of things in order to realize how lucky we are.
Again, I think the whole conundrum is just a little bit too existential for us to really be able to act on it every single day because it is an emotionally intense thing to think about. Like I said, even for me, I don't have all the answers. For me to share my story and talk about my experience, that's not the path that everyone's going to travel. Everyone's situation is different. Everyone's experiences are different.
If I'm to tell you exactly what worked for me, I can't expect you to go and do the same things and achieve the same result. It's just like giving you yesterday's lottery numbers. I know what works for me, but I think a lot of it comes back to purpose.
This is what I've been focusing a lot on lately. For me, the experience got me to connect with what I really want out of life. I'm, in a way, lucky to have had the shark attack because it's given me something unique to talk about where people will listen.
I would say the difference between the guy who was selling surfboards in a surf shop and the guy who can stand on stage and share his story is that I didn't have the opportunity to change someone's life selling a surfboard. You can sell them something that they have a lot of fun in, but I now have an opportunity to change someone's life through my experience and my own story.
That's something that has crafted a new purpose for me. Whereas I lost the purpose of chasing the dream of becoming a pro surfer, I was gifted something else, and that's been a big driver for me to move forward.
These life-changing experiences that we do have, they can often get us to step back, look at our own life and what we want out of it, and to reconnect or connect with our purpose in the first place.
We can't be expected to solve all the world's problems or to do absolutely everything we can to leave the largest mark possible on the universe. I'm not going to get up in front of 1000 people every single day and speak. I'd love to, but it's about those little steps as we spoke about earlier. If I'm doing something to try and connect with my purpose, whether it's a little bit of storytelling, whether it's a little bit of connection, whether it's a little bit of advice, then that'll all add up over time.
I think at the end of your life, maybe you'll be able to look back on these pivotal moments and be like, for me, that was the fork in the road where I could have stayed doing what I was doing before, which is not a bad existence. But what I'm doing now is a much better thing. Although I don't wake up every morning thinking like this could be the last day, I better make the most of it, it's more just having the perspective on what I've been through and connecting with that purpose that I spoke about, which has been a big shift for me.
That was definitely going a long way around the question, circling it a bunch of times, because I don't think there really is a correct answer to it. If there is, I'd love to hear it. I suppose that's my relationship with that question.
Brendan: I think you've done well. You said circling. You were circling like a shark, weren't you? I guess that purpose is very often talked about a lot. Maybe not understood, necessary as much as it needs to be, but it relates to impact. Is there a story that you have that comes to mind where you've actually been told you've had that impact on somebody already?
Brett: There are probably two that I would link together. I'll try to tell them in a slightly brief format because they're both separate stories but are important to each other. The first one would be the first time I actually shared my story, which was at high school that one of my friends was working at. This was about four months after the attack, so I hadn't got back in the water yet.
My friend reached out to me and he said, hey, can you come and talk to the kids for Are You Okay Day? I knew the importance of Are You Okay Day, especially after everything that I've just been through. I was like, yeah, I'll come along, I have no idea what I'm doing though. He's like, just share whatever you want to, just talk for a bit. They'll be interested.
I'm terrified of speaking. I still am now, but I was even more then. I got up in front of probably 50 kids there. I just shared my story chronologically from the attack up until where I was. I hadn't even gotten into the water yet. There was no real final. There was no finish to the story, but I just shared it.
Afterwards, the teachers came up to me and they're like, we've never seen those kids sit still for five minutes. Forty minutes later, they were completely locked in and engaged. For me, that let me know that I had something that was interesting, that was engaging, and that gave me an opportunity to share. That's what has defined my purpose and given me a bit of direction in knowing that's what I want to do in speaking, sharing that story, and hopefully helping other people. That led me further down the track to where I was doing more work in the mental health space and more work in speaking.
I actually made a goal of mine a couple of years ago to save someone's life. I was working for a mental health training and education company at the time. We go into workplaces and I'd share my story, but then couple it with evidence-based mental health training and education. There was one instance where we got some feedback from the company that we're working with. It usually has a fair impact when you talk to people that say, oh, it's really great hearing your story, I'm going to change these. It was just a bit of feedback from a company saying that one of their workers was going through a tough time.
I don't want to overshare too much about this because it is quite personal, but they were going through a tough time. Basically, they were at a point where they were considering suicide. They were going to do it at work because it was such a terrible place for them.
Actually, one of the people that had heard the talk, and it wasn't necessarily one about my stories, more about the education that followed up, but it was a group that I'd spoken to. Someone saw that this person was struggling, started a very simple conversation with them, and realized that they were struggling. They actually asked the person the questions that they needed to ask.
He found out the condition they were in, found out the situation they were in, got them out of work, and connected them to the support that they needed. I remember just hearing that feedback and knowing that not only have I been able to connect with my story, but the stuff I've been able to speak about afterwards, potentially or in that situation, has saved someone's life.
Again, I compare it to the guy that was selling surfboards in a surf shop before. I don't think I would have ever had that impact before. I think connecting with that purpose got me to the point of having an impact probably greater than what I would have expected, even when I first set out to share my story. That's probably something that when I look back on is always going to be a pretty big moment of mine, when I think about the impact that one person can have on others, because it's not necessarily about changing the world.
You can only really change the world one person at a time. Always go in with a one person attitude of, if everything I do just helps one person, then it is all worth it. That's (I suppose) one example where that's come true, and I'm very, very proud of being able to be a part of that.
Brendan: Great stories, mate. Thanks for sharing. I want to go back to the goal side of things. You achieved this goal of surfing. Goals are so important. How does what you've just shared potentially relate to what was your next goal? What's your next big, hairy, audacious goal that you set?
Brett: A lot of my goals were based around surfing at the start. I got back in the water, and then it was more like, okay, where can I go? Can I surf to this level, and then it was eventually to get back and compete? It was only 12 months after that I was competing in the same competitions that I had before.
I was really, really proud to be there. But also, I was at a point of reflection where I asked myself, did I really go through everything that I just went through to become the person that I was beforehand? That was another fork in the road where I said, if I do have the option to keep surfing, that's great and that's the decision that I can make, or I can have a little bit more of a look forward and say, what impacts can I have with my story, with my speaking, to try and help other people?
That became a bit more of a broad goal as far as using the story to help other people. That's probably more of my purpose rather than an actual goal itself. It's more, what goals can I set to try to achieve that? It was learning a little bit more about speaking, then it was just getting on stage, and then it was setting a certain amount of talks that I wanted to do per year.
A lot of it has been around those storytelling goals. I started off as a very raw, unaccomplished speaker that really struggled with the craft of speaking. I'd like to think that I've improved a bit since I started, but it was really about being able to prove that I could not only just deliver something effective onstage, but then to be able to make a living out of it. That’s something that I do today is a very big one as well, but those goals have continued to develop over time. It was going to speaking through how many talks I could do in a year and stuff like that.
It was all worth it if I could help that one person. It wasn't necessarily about needing to speak to as many people as possible, but it was more just about growth and getting those reps up on stage. That overarching goal changed at a certain point because I had a realization that there was probably only a certain amount of time that I can share my story before I'm some 40-, 50-year-old bloke sharing a story about when he got attacked by shock when he's 22.
I started trying to look a little bit ahead of that. That's what has led me to make the movie based on my story. I wanted to create a documentary just on my story and the things that I've learned from it. The story is out there. I know that will help my speaking in one way or another, but the big goal there is because I know the importance of storytelling that I wanted to start my own production company, to build this documentary under so I have the opportunity to help other people share their stories in the same sort of way.
I think those goals have been really important in getting me to the point of realizing that purpose of mine. I always break it down, purpose, goals, daily actions. You can break them down, monthly actions or whatever. But it's what you do daily, weekly, monthly, to go towards those longer term goals, which serve your higher purpose of what you want to achieve in life. I'd say I'm probably more purpose-driven than I am goals-driven, as far as what I truly care about, but the goals helped me get there.
Brendan: We're certainly going to touch and have a bit of a chat around the doco coming out in the not too distant future. What I'd like to know is, in all of this stuff that's happened, the attack, but everything you've done since then, if you could boil it down to a lesson, what has been this greatest lesson for you?
Brett: The greatest lesson for me is, I know I'm going back to it, but it means so much to me. It is around purpose. Having a reason to do something is better than doing it for the sake of doing it. Not only is that going to give you fulfillment when you look back on why you did something and the importance of being able to achieve something, but it helps you take that first step in the first place anyway.
I know a lot of people get stuck on what purpose means to them because they often think that you look at all these famous people or these prominent people that have this purpose that seems so far beyond what you hope to get out of life.
People often don't realize that anyone can have a purpose. Purpose is a bit of a buzzword that is a good way of describing what means a lot to you. Everyone knows what means a lot to them in life. It doesn't always have to be something that everyone thinks about in a business context. It is important when it comes to business because we have to survive. If we can do something we truly care about that is through purpose in order to justify our existence through our work, then that's great, but purpose can be spending time with family.
Purpose can be having an activity or something that you truly care about, but it's about making that part of your life. Because if we can start to fulfill our purposes, it doesn't always have to have a monetary benefit attached to it. A lot of the purposes that people will probably look back on what made the most of them are the small things in life.
This goes back to the key in sweet-sour-banana to look at the little things that you do. I became really interested in being empowered by gratitude itself because gratitude is something that a lot of people do to look at the things that they're truly grateful for in life. A lot of people, if you ask them to do gratitude for a week, they'll probably write down things like my family, where I live, and my health. They'll just write that in three different orders for an entire week.
The key with gratitude is to look at the little things that make you smile. It's the little things that make you feel whole. I think one thing when I look at the purpose and try to explain it to people is it doesn't have to be this enormous picture that you might find eventually, and if you do have that, that's great. But for purposes, it's really just the reason to get out of bed every day. If you want to be happy and that's your sole purpose, then what are you going to do in order to make you smile.
If your purpose is to raise a family, then you've got to have the family in the first place. If you have a family and you want to put a lot of time and effort into it, how do you create time within work and within life to be able to spend time with them, to teach your kids the things you want to teach them, and to be there for your partner?
I think purpose and happiness is something that I'd like everyone to take away as far as what I really take out of life. It's the little things every single day for me. Although I do have these grand plans that I'd love to be able to achieve one day, I wake up every morning, I go for a swim, I write down the things I'm grateful for, and I'm incredibly happy to be able to do that.
Brendan: You mentioned about the documentary coming out. Tell us roughly when it should be out, who's bringing it out, and tell us a bit about it in a nutshell.
Brett: The documentary has been a long, long process to get to this point. A bit of backstory, it was meant to be a five-minute preview that I would show before I do my talks, just to give you the context. I was working with a friend of mine on it. We showed it to a few people and they're like, no, you got to do more than five minutes. It doesn't do it justice. It grew into 20 minutes and we're like, for doing more and more, we might as well just do a feature length.
As we got to that point, I was like, okay, cool, we're actually doing it. I've always had people say, you should write a book. Unlike everyone who writes a book, I want to do something a little bit different. I think there's still room, I suppose, for a book at some point in the future, but the film felt right to me due to the way that we started with it and finding a good way to tell my story.
There are probably two questions I get asked a lot when it comes to the film itself, which is, why now and why you're doing it yourself? They're both links, so I had opportunities early on to sell my story to a network who wanted to do a fear piece on sharks about a shark attack and stuff like that. That never sat right with me early on because I've always had a positive relationship with sharks despite what I've been through.
Like I mentioned earlier, I respect sharks a lot for how good they are and what they do. They're amazing creatures. Because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, it doesn't mean that I think of them in a negative way. Because I had that mindset, I didn't want them to be portrayed that way.
I didn't want to do that piece early on, but I also didn't want to do something by myself early on because I didn't know what I was doing. But then I also didn't think that my story was at a point where I was willing to share it yet. I didn't want it to just be about the attack. I wanted it to be about something other than that.
Also, I realized that when I was sharing my story up on stage, I was always sharing other people's perspectives on it as well, like what Joel was seeing from his point of view when he was watching the attack unfold, like what my parents had been through, what it was like from different people that I've met along the way. I wanted to give those people a platform to be able to share their point of view and their perspective as well.
As things grew, we included all those different perspectives. We didn't want it to just be attack recovery, we wanted it to be attack recovery, but then what afterwards. I'd had another thing that I was looking to do for years, which was to paddle between Molokai and Oahu, which are two islands in Hawaii. They're 54 kilometers apart. When I say paddle, it's important to specify what type of craft.
I paddle it on a 12-foot prong paddleboard, which is similar to what you see in the surf club boards, except it has a whole bottom. It's a lot more unstable, they're a bit longer, generally quicker through the water, but a lot harder to get used to riding.
That was a challenge that appealed to me for a few different reasons. I liked the idea of the physical challenge and something about people who've been through some physical crisis in life, where they want to manifest that with some challenge.
I've done other ones. I've walked 100 kilometers and I've run a marathon. But this one seemed to be one that culminated the reason for doing that, alongside the cultural significance of doing this thing in Hawaii, the birthplace of surfing. There are a lot of surfers that have completed this paddle. Not only that, but the Molokai Channel or the Kaiwi Channel as it's called in Hawaii, is 2500-foot deep.
It's incredibly deep. When you're in the middle of that channel, you feel like a spec. There are a lot of big creatures in there, understandably. It's overcoming fear. It's overcoming the physical challenge. It puts a lot into not only preparing for it, but doing it as well.
We wanted to showcase what it was like to use the things that I've learned through my recovery in parallel with what that experience in doing the paddle was like. There are a lot of things that I did learn throughout the recovery that actually helped me be able to do it, not only just in the preparation, which is that day-to-day training and the rehab side of things, but then the mindset to actually get through it.
That seemed like a perfect thing to put into this whole documentary and to do it that way because it brings you to the present day. It brings you to not just this one thing that happened to me, but what I've learned from that and how to use it in other parts of life. That's what everyone else is looking for. When you hear a story, it's like, how does this apply to me?
Again, it's probably not going to be a shark attack and recovery from that. A lot of people probably aren't going to choose to paddle the Kaiwi Channel after watching this, and I probably wouldn't necessarily want to do it again, but it's about having a bit more of a proactive approach to the challenges that we face in life and using the experience of yourself in the experience of others to try and overcome that. That was the process of putting this film together.
It's probably been three years since that first five-minute video and a bunch of different iterations and a few different ways of going about it. I mentioned earlier as well, my willingness to want to help other people share their stories. This was going to be the platform, where we could produce a film ourselves in order to be a bit of a launchpad for doing that down the track. It does tick a lot of boxes as far as my purpose goes and why I want to do it. It's at a point now where we're really, really close to finishing.
It will be on Stan in Australia, which I'm really excited about as well because there's a lot of uncertainty that goes into how people are going to say. There's like that, that pathway from the concept of it and how people are going to view it in the end, which is very uncertain at the start. As you get someone that buys into it, wants to show it, and wants other people to see it, it's really reassuring knowing that people are going to be able to view it.
It's not just something that we're going to make as a passion project. It is really cool that it is going to be out there. It will be released on the 9th of March on Stan. That's been a really cool process to go through, not only the experience of doing the paddle for myself and doing the whole film, but learning a lot about filmmaking. I actually, apart from producing, I was directing it as well, which meant that I was conducting all the interviews, which is a strange way to do this type of thing.
I was interviewing my parents about their perspective on me. I liked that process because it was a good learning curve. It was almost like an inquisitive thing for me where I can learn more about my attack. Because I'm the one asking the questions, I can find out more. I definitely learned a lot more than I didn't know before, which is a really cool experience, too.
There were a lot of things about this whole process, which have been very consuming. It's been very grueling to get it to this point. But I think when it's all done, I'll be incredibly proud to have something to show for my story, which I can put out in the world, be proud of, and know that it's going to do some good things out there.
Brendan: I can't wait to watch it. I'm super excited. Actually, you're a man who does things differently anyway, and I just love that. First of all, I knew that what you've just said about you conducting interviews as well, I think that's a fantastic angle. What better way to have lived through what you've lived, but then asking the questions based on that experience you've lived? That would be a great learning opportunity, as you've indicated.
A couple of times you mentioned the word fear. It obviously comes out and then overcoming that fear. Have you reflected on what you think has helped you better overcome fear or better manage fear?
Brett: There are probably a couple of things. Rational or irrational fear is probably the first place to start. I have recently started a lot of my talks. In my presentations and keynotes, we're talking about fear and saying, fear is something that we all grapple with in different ways and different parts of life. I talk to people about fear all the time.
There are two very common fears that tend to come back when I ask people, what are your common fears? The two main ones are public speaking and being attacked by an animal of sorts. I say, obviously, I'm doing one of them now by speaking. That's what I do by choice, the other one happened by chance.
There's something about fear where you can look at the rational fear of a lot of people who would say that the shark attack or the animal attack is irrational fear because it's something that we're not used to as humans. But then you look at statistics and all of that, and you can start to bring that irrational argument as well.
The big reason for bringing that up and then also with getting up on stage, speaking, and overcoming that fear, is why you would do it. That does, again, link back to purpose. For me, it's worth standing on stage, sweating, worrying about what I'm going to say, and stumbling through my sentences because of what it can give me in the end.
Same thing is getting back in the water. A lot of people assume the fear was going back in the water because that's where sharks are. For me, the biggest fear was about what type of surfer I was going to be. If I was going to be able to stand up on a surfboard, how far can I push it because that was such a big part of who I was. That for me, it was almost like the fear of failure rather than the fear of the shark or the thing that people assume you to be afraid of.
I would say that fear of failure was an irrational fear because it was something that regardless of if I was able to stand up or whatever, I talked about the importance of setting those goals. I'd already accomplished so much up until that point that the outcome didn't really matter to me. It does depend a lot on what the fear is, if it is dangerous. If it is not, it's probably one thing that's important to weigh up.
I think if we can reflect on our purpose and why we are actually choosing to go into this position of fear, then it does help us at least make a more informed decision of why we're doing it, but then how we go about it as well. Overcoming fear isn't always just diving in headfirst. That's probably the slightly more irresponsible way of doing things, but if you can slowly work your way up to it.
I didn't go and speak in front of a group of 500 people the first time I got up on stage. My first time was to that group of 40 students, and that was a good introduction. Things slowly grew from there. Overcoming fear is, yes, it is about taking that first step, but it's about finding the way that's right for you. One thing that you don't want is to be afraid of something and just do it for the sake of doing it and then have an outcome that stops you from doing it in the future. Having an open mind into what you're going into (I think) is really important.
The other thing that I learned from that is looking at other people and how other people grapple with fear. There's a lot of inspiration that you can gain from how other people go about their own things in life that when I was talking to the surfer, again, the advice earlier on about improving yourself every day, I looked at what he was going through. That helped me with my fear of like, what was the surfer that I was going to be when I got back in the water?
There are other people that have been through their own different struggles or their own different circumstances or situations that you can use as a bit of a reflection point to see how it works and to work through that through the lens of someone else. I think it was also pretty important.
Fear is something that we'll all encounter. Fear is something that is different for everyone. My fears are no longer shark-related. It's no longer getting back in the water, being attacked by an animal, or something like that. My fear still is getting up on stage and speaking.
My bigger fear now is probably looking back when I'm towards the end of my life and not knowing that I made the most of this opportunity that I had. That is a big driver that I have today to step outside of that comfort zone and to face those fears head on, I suppose.
Brendan: Well done, mate. I have to say, I reckon there'd be plenty of people listening or watching on YouTube who would say, that is a massive step talking in front of 40 students. That'd be a pretty tough gig, wouldn't it? You'd rather speak in front of 500 adults, wouldn't you?
Brett: Yeah. That was the reason I look back to the reason I did it in the first place. It was for Are You Okay Day. It was because it was a topic that I cared about that I had the purpose in. That's what got me to overcome that.
It wasn't easy. That was the hardest one. That one was harder than the biggest audience that I've ever had. It is all about where you are in relation to what that fear is as well.
Brendan: People who connect with you, get to know you, and who are going to hear and watch your story and where that's going through the documentary on Stan, you're inspiring a lot of people. You've got the opportunity to inspire a lot more people into the future. Who inspires you?
Brett: I get inspired by anyone with a story, honestly. You don't have to look far for a story. I think a lot of people often look at the top of society, whether that be on social media or whoever, the famous people to be inspired. There are some inspiring people out there, but I get just as inspired by the bloke down the road who's maintaining his garden because it's the thing he cares about the most as I do about anyone there.
There are a lot of people that I look up to. A big part of that for me is it forces me to step outside of my comfort zone a little bit to have conversations with people like that because it is slightly out of my nature to delve into someone else's life and to learn more about them. That's been something that I've been trying to do through the journal, interviewing people and interviewing people that I don't know in order to learn a bit more, but you can be inspired by so many different things out there.
I look up to a lot of people, not only within my life. I always say, my biggest hero is my dad because of not only what he's done in life, but the lessons that he's taught me. That's a question that I like to ask people as well because it's interesting to hear people's answers.
That's why I think it's important to talk about these people because if we can find someone that is accessible, that you can talk to, that you can actually physically bounce off when it comes to who you're inspired by, that's super valuable. It doesn't always have to be these people that you can't necessarily reach. You can still be inspired by them. But I think being able to interact with that inspiration is a good way of helping us explore it a little bit deeper.
Brendan: It makes a lot of sense, mate. Let's do some sweet-sour-banana moments. We're looking into the future. Twelve months time into 2023, you're writing your journal, your yearly journal. What do you hope is the greatest sweet moment in the year?
Brett: It's going to be hard to look past releasing the documentary just because there's been a lot of time and a lot of effort that goes into it. I have looked at this year as a big year of growth, not only just in my work, the documentary, and speaking, but a lot of personal growth as well. I would hope to look back and know that I've done a lot to grow and I've done a lot to learn. Hopefully, 2024 is going to be bigger again. I'd say the sweet would probably be the documentary.
Brendan: I'm going to make this a little bit harder because I don't want you to say that you hope the sour moment is not the documentary but something else. We don't hope for sour, but what do we hope doesn't go sour in the year?
Brett: That's a bit harder. I would say the thing that I hope doesn't go sour is probably the things that I want to achieve long-term. There are things that I hope to get at the end, which is the time to spend with the people I love. I do luckily have time at the moment to do that, even though I'm in a position where things are building.
I would hope that as I get busy with all that other stuff, I don't lose sight of that because it's something that truly means a lot to me. I want to make sure that it is a big priority to know that the things that I'm feeling now are going to be just as important in 6 or 12 months’ time as they are to me at the moment. That'd be the thing that I hope for.
Brendan: I hope for that too, mate. Because when I asked you in 12 months to sit down with me, like, no, Brendan, you're too small. Now I'm much bigger than that. You're not going to do that to me, mate. Is that what you're saying?
Brett: No chance. I just realized before that I'm episode 99. I thought I was going to get on for the time, but I long for episode 200.
Brendan: Potentially, you won't be episode 99, you'll be a little bit forward because we'll have to align this with the documentary. That's yet to be decided, mate. We'll see how we go. Let's get onto the banana moment, mate. What do you hope is the banana moment for 2023?
Brett: I'm going to America next week. Of all places that I'm going to, I'm going to Kansas. I'm going there to shoot a pilot for a TV show that I'm working on as our next project. I don't think Kansas is the first place I would have picked when I was saying that I'm going to the US. I think it'll be an interesting and eye-opening experience. I'm sure there'll be a lot of funny things to come out of that.
Brendan: I can't wait to hear more. It sounds like quite an adventure. What's had the greatest impact on yourself becoming a more confident leader?
Brett: It's probably knowing that people are always watching. I think having good intentions and speaking about things is great. But if you can back it up with actions and just acting like people are always going to notice if you're living as the person that you want to be, I think that's an important thing for me.
Something that I've learned is that it's great to say all these nice things that I say on a podcast. But if I don't back it up by going out, living my purpose, and doing all those things I spoke about, which is the important thing on going over to do the paddle for the documentary is to have that bit of accountability as well, but it's not just those big things in life. It really is the person that you are on a daily basis.
I grew up in a small town. I love the connection of talking to people, walking down the street, and saying good morning to everyone. Knowing that you never become someone who feels too good for that is important. I know that's probably an extreme case that you wouldn't get too often.
I think the big thing is to know that you're just as important to the person down the road as someone on the other side of the world. It's something that means a lot to me, especially with how connected we are now. Whether that's how you act online or how you act when you're going for a walk (I think) is really important. The type of person that you want to be is the type of person that you should be acting like every single day.
Brendan: I couldn't agree more, mate. A massive thank you, mate. It's been a pleasure. I met you and it's almost 12 months ago now in what we're saying pre-recording. We have another chance to talk too much. We've been back and forth, you've been busy, and we're all doing our different things.
We've been setting this up for some time having you on the podcast, so I'm so happy and glad that we've had the opportunity to do it. In line with the upcoming release of the documentary, I know when I first met you, you had a great conversation at the event where we're at. We spent some time on a panel together and it's great. It's not just a story, you're a pretty decent human being. You obviously had a fantastic upbringing. Your parents have served a fantastic example in your family unit. I was super excited to chat today.
You haven't disappointed, thankfully. I hate people who disappoint, but you haven't disappointed, mate. Thanks for coming on. Thanks for sharing this story. More importantly, thanks for sharing what you've taken from that and how you're actually having a real impact on people. You're helping them think about their own journey. You've been a fantastic guest on The Culture of Leadership today. Thank you.
Brett: Not a problem. Thanks. Thanks for sticking by me for over the 12 months and making it happen. It's great to reconnect and be able to share a bit.
Brendan: Absolute pleasure, buddy.
What would you do if you were told you could never again do your all-time favorite activity? Personally, I like to think I’d act with at least some of the courage and resilience Brett did. But honestly, I’m not sure. He was told he would never surf again. His first true love, gone. It was tough. He took it in his stride. With support from his inner circle, he aimed high.
He’s not only surfing again, he’s developed into a leader who impacts people's lives. Brett’s sweetest moment for 2023 is coming soon. Attacking Life, a documentary he directed and produced, is due for release on Stan on the 9th March 2023. It’s an intimate exploration into Brett’s mind and body living life with a second chance. Make sure you check it out.
These were my 3 key takeaways from my conversation with Brett.
My first key takeaway, leaders set lofty goals. Not only for themselves but also for their team. They foster a belief in their own and their team’s greater potential. This leads them to setting lofty goals.
My second key takeaway, leaders concentrate on the little things. They seek out daily, small improvements. They know this adds up to big improvements over time, which is why leaders always stay focused and concentrate on the little things.
My third key takeaway, leaders know circumstances don’t define them. It’s how you respond to the situation that determines the outcome. Leaders who understand this build resilience and can adapt quickly. This leads to personal and professional success. That’s why leaders don’t allow circumstances to define them.
In summary, my three key takeaways were, leaders set lofty goals, leaders concentrate on the little things, and leaders know circumstances don’t define them.
What were your key takeaways? You can send me a comment at thecultureofleadership.com, on YouTube, or via our socials. Thanks for joining me. Remember, the best outcome is on the other side of a genuine conversation.
Thanks for listening to The Culture of Leadership. You can access the show notes at thecultureofleadership.com. If you enjoy the show, please follow, rate, and give a review on your favorite podcast platform.