For anyone who doesn't know, Will Polston is a bestselling author, entrepreneur and one of the UK's leading business strategists and performance coaches, so we were delighted when he agreed to be on our podcast and do a short Q&A for our blog. Let’s dive straight in!
Will, could you start by explaining how you got into coaching?
I grew up with the belief that money equalled happiness. I remember, my dad hated his job; he used to leave the house early and get home late and bring the stress and the frustration of work home with him. Growing up I could physically feel the tension. One day I came home from school and my dad had quit his job to set up a business with one of my uncles. I've got two very wealthy uncles: one's a billionaire and the other a multimillionaire. Dad always used say they just got lucky - that was his excuse. But after a couple of months, nothing materialised, and dad became depressed. All I did was connect the dots: I looked at my Uncle Mark who was a billionaire and really happy and Uncle Steve who was a multimillionaire and also really happy. So, I set out to make lots of money and I became quite good at that. At 18, I stumbled across personal development and the more I did, the more money I made, which carried on for some years. And then I had a big realisation, 10 years ago this year actually, which I call my lightning moment. I cried my eyes out for about 15 minutes because in that moment I realised my real driver was nothing to do with money. It was really about my dad not reaching his potential and the impact that had on him and my family and a whole host of other people. I vowed in that moment not to let anyone else to go through the suffering he, and we, went through. My mission now is to empower people to break free from excuses and live a life they truly love.
Can you remember what sparked that significant change in your life?
Absolutely. Attending a talk by Tony Robbins was a game-changer for me. He explained how he used the past as a catalyst for the future. Rather being a victim of his past, he was able to make a conscious decision and change his future because of his past, because the past doesn't equal the future, unless you live there. Whatever's happened, you can change.
And while we can’t go back and change what’s happened, we can change the meaning we give it, and switch it from being a destructive fuel to a constructive fuel.
Is there anyone else who’s inspired you?
I read one of Mo Gawdat’s books, Solve for Happy, five or six years ago, and I just loved it. Mo in real life is exactly how you think he's going to be; he's just an incredible guy. But there are dozens of people who have had an impact on my life. I used to do an exercise where I'd write out a list of people who have influenced me or who I admire and trust either because of how they interact in their family life or in business, for example. I would have this long list of people and look to learn from them at least once every 90 days. So, when I say learn from them, that might be in person if I know them - I will go and meet them for coffee or whatever - or if I don’t, I might listen to their podcast or watch them on YouTube. And there'll be people on the list who are no longer with us, but I’ll watch old videos of them or read their books. So, there are literally dozens of people who have had an impact on me, which I'm extremely grateful for, and I constantly surround myself with these people. As a result, I'm constantly learning and trying to grow every day.
You recently released a book called North Star Thinking. Can you give us a brief synopsis?
One of the core principles in the book is having a goal in life that's so big that you actually never achieve it, so you detach from the ideal of achieving it and focus on the process instead. Essentially, it becomes a mission in life that you're working on, but you never actually fulfil because then you're not constantly feeling unfulfilled while you're striving towards this goal. Or when you do get there, you don't feel like you need to set another one straight away. I expand on quite a few different topics in the book, everything from how to master your time to how to cultivate an attitude of gratitude and how to create habits that stick.
What have been the biggest takeaways from your career so far?
That’s a big question! One of the lessons I’ve learnt is that there's no such thing as a lack of resources, just a lack of resourcefulness. I also do my absolute best to never use the word can’t - as in I can’t do that - and I suppose another big one is the whole concept of North Star Thinking. It took me a lot of years to realise that I was caught in what I refer to as the ‘when, then’ syndrome. For example, when I achieve this goal, then I'll be happy. When I achieve that, then I'll be alright. When I get this one, then I'll be complete. Focusing on the fulfilment side of things rather than the achievement side of things has been a lightbulb moment for me.
And finally, what do you say to people who for one reason or another don’t see the value of coaching?
Not all coaching is created equal and not all coaches are created equal. Coaching is such a broad term and there are a lot of people who may think that they've been coached, but they were never being coached. There's an awful lot of people who think coaching is somebody telling them what to do, and that absolutely isn't coaching. For me, coaching really is just a form of communication but it’s not as simple as just asking questions, which is what a lot of other people think coaching is. There's a multitude of different components that are built into coaching. I train with an organisation that's part of the International Coaching Federation, and they talk about the 10 core competencies of coaching. It’s a little bit like somebody saying, I really don't like pizza, but they've only ever tried one pizza, and maybe it was the cold leftover pizza from the night before. Maybe it was a thick pan pizza, but they haven't tried a thin pan pizza! There are lots of different ways of looking at things.
We really hope you enjoyed finding out a bit more about Will Polston and now have some strategies for mastering mindset and living a fulfilling life! Be sure to check out his book, North Star Thinking, available on Amazon, and you can of course listen to an extended version of this interview with Will on the Parentrepreneurs Club podcast.