Understand that adversity is inevitable in most situations and it’s in your ability to handle adversity that you find your true potential, says Owen Fitzpatrick.

Owen Fitzpatrick is a psychologist and an international bestselling author. He has shared the stage with speakers like Richard Branson, Seth Godin, and Jean Claude Van Damme. He has worked with business billionaires, Olympic athletes as well as big firms like Coca-Cola, Google, Pfizer, Abbott, Barclays Bank, CBI, Sage and Car Trawler.

Having travelled to more than 100 countries and spoken to audiences in more than 30 countries, he has written eight books which have been translated into more than 15 languages. He is also an award-winning filmmaker and actor.

“Often it’s our pain that drives us to do things.”

Tell me a little about your life to date, how did you arrive at this point?

As a teenager, I struggled a fair bit and was depressed and had no confidence. So, I started with that need to understand how my mind worked and how to be better with other people. Often it’s our pain that drives us to do things. I became immersed in the field of psychology and worked as a therapist. I started training people and speaking to audiences about what I’d learned about growing happier and becoming more confident. I studied a field called NLP and began co-authoring books with the co-creator, Dr Richard Bandler. At the same time, in my twenties, I travelled the world and taught in many different countries. 

“There’s a multitude of problems facing business people today.”

How do you describe what you do?

I’m a psychologist that helps people communicate with and influence themselves and others more effectively.

“Our attention is always being hacked.”

What type of people (businesses) do you work with?

I work with all types from the public to the private sector and in different industries including the pharma, technological, commercial, health and financial industries. I specialise in delivering talks and training on influence, leadership, high performance, storytelling, authenticity and decision making.

“Whoever tells the best story wins.”

What problems are people facing?

There is a multitude of problems facing business people today. Perhaps the most significant ones from my point of view are those connected to attention and perspective. Our attention is always being hacked by the vast amount of continuous messages we are being presented with. Nowadays, we consume so much more information than ever before. As a result, the challenge is no longer about finding information. It’s about deciding what information to pay attention to. This makes it harder for us to make decisions.

It also makes it harder for us to think in a more effective way about our problems. If you are continuously being bombarded with negative news stories and possible threats, it is challenging to get a clear perspective of what’s going on and what to do. Since we have more exposure to everybody else and what they are doing, we have to learn how to remain ourselves while adapting to whatever challenges arise and learn from those who are successful.

Finally, the game has changed. It is no longer about competing directly on price or some USP. It is mainly about the stories you tell that gets you noticed. Since you need to grab and keep the audience’s attention, whoever tells the best story wins.

“We know so much more about the science of influence.”

What solutions are available, how do people apply what you know to their lives and work?

The study of how a story can be used in business is undoubtedly one of the most exciting areas of research at present. We also know so much more about the science of influence and how to win over others to our point of view. Research into neuroscience, behavioural economics and related fields is providing us with a high number of evidence-based strategies to handle the current challenges of our time.

More and more executives realise the importance of training their staff and getting coaching to get the edge and work on themselves. ‘Soft’ skills are now seen as essential skills as we can no longer afford to do without them. Since most of what I do is about people, there are opportunities to practice what is learned on a regular basis in the office. Companies are also recognising the value in e-learning which also has something I have been involved in the last few years.

“Be okay with feeling this feeling and understand it as a message for you to take stock.”

How do you view success?

To me, success is the experiencing of doing more of what you want to do the way you want to do it. It’s about becoming better than you were before and achieving whatever you achieve as a bonus to the feeling of fulfilment. I believe real success only matters when you have the right balance in your life and the proper perspective.

“Imagine it vividly and remind yourself why you want it.”

When people feel stuck, unmotivated, stressed – what can they do? How can they overcome adversity?

First, acknowledge how you are feeling and accept it. Be okay with feeling this feeling and understand it as a message for you to take stock and make a decision. Next, understand that adversity is inevitable in most situations and it is in your ability to handle adversity that you find your true greatness and potential. Then, focus on what you want to achieve or what you want to have happened. Imagine it vividly and remind yourself why you want it. Identify what is stopping you from reaching it. Determine what is in your control and build a game plan to achieve what you want.

“Your feelings are signals, not facts.”

What life-lessons do you find helpful and valuable? What advice still resonates with you?

Always have a sense of humour would be first. It can be so helpful in dealing with much of the adversity we face and helps us think clearer when we are going through the toughest times.
Experience as much of the world as possible. Embrace other peoples viewpoints and perspectives and try to look through their eyes as much as you can.

Understand your feelings are signals, not facts. Be aware of them but also ensure that you are focusing on what you want to achieve and what you need to do to get there.

Motivation is great, but you also need discipline to succeed. Motivation is the feeling that makes you want to do something. Training is a habit where you do something regardless.

It isn’t the best product that will always win. It’s the best story.

“I would give myself the gift of falling asleep.”

Who are the people you admire and why?

Apart from my parents, mentors such as the co-founder of NLP, (and my co-author of five books) Dr Richard Bandler has made an enormous impact on me having known him since I was a teenager. Also, storytelling and screenwriting lecturer Robert McKee has had a significant influence on me. I also admire many of my friends and anyone from Ireland that has managed to conquer the challenges they’ve faced to become successful worldwide.

If you could change one thing, about yourself or the world you live in, what would it be?

I would give myself the gift of falling asleep anywhere anytime and being immune to jet lag. That would make life so much easier. Oh and world peace, an end to hunger and all diseases cured of course.

Interview by Jason Cooper – jcooper@jasoncooper.ie. 

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