Athletes put a lot of work into physically training for an event. Leaders put a lot of thought and experience into making sure their organization is successful. However, it's easy to forget that everything is connected and that a tired brain will negatively impact performance.
In this episode of The Entrepreneur to Author Podcast, your host Scott MacMillan speaks with Gaz Mills, an endurance athlete, brain coach and author of The Brainy Athlete about how we can take care of our brain to perform better in sports and in the boardroom.
Gaz Mills simplifies brain science to create brainy athletes, leaders and teams. His clients include professional athletes, passionate leaders, energetic entrepreneurs, and their teams.
Gaz was a Prime Minister’s bodyguard, specialist police trainer, and executive. He's an endurance athlete, Beyond Blue speaker, coffee snob, and even survived a reality TV show filmed in Bali. Gaz lives in Canberra and Broulee with his wife.
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LinkedIn: Gaz Mills
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Please note: The transcript is produced by a third-party company from an audio recording and may include transcription errors.
You're listening to the Entrepreneur to Author podcast.
Welcome to the Entrepreneur to Author podcast, the podcast that brings you practical strategies for building authority and growing your business. And now, here's your host, Scott MacMillan.
Today I'm with Gaz Mills. Gaz has been a Prime Minister's bodyguard, a specialist police trainer, and an executive. He's an endurance athlete, a beyond blue speaker, a coffee snob, and interestingly, he also survived a reality TV show filmed in Bali.
And what he does is simplify brain science to create brainy athletes, leaders, and teams. His clients include professional athletes, passionate leaders, energetic entrepreneurs and their teams.
Gaz, thanks so much for being here.
for being here. Thanks for having me, Scott. Great to be here with you and everybody out there listening.
Now I shared a bit about your background in the intro, but I think it would be helpful if you could expand a bit about how it is that you’ve come to where you are today, helping brainy athletes, leaders and teams.
Yeah, absolutely, Scott.
Well, for starters, I haven't always been a coffee snob. I used to drink... you know, just the old powdered coffee like everybody else, but yeah, I've grown into a coffee stop, but that's not the point of the main reason I'm here, of course.
Yeah, look, you've hit a few of my things from the background with the policing days, and I've also had some executive roles in the past as well before getting out on my own and writing this book. The brainy athlete.
So, I'm an athlete. I've never been a professional athlete, but certainly like a lot of people, I grew up playing sport. And then in later years, I got into three sports that involve wearing lycra, which is rowing, triathlons and cycling. So, I swore to my wife many years ago, I'd never wear lycra, but here I am. I'm... a few years older and out there pretty much every day in my life.
So the athletic side of my life has been a very important part to leading to where I am with brainy athletes, but it's more than that. It's working in high performing teams, in the police for instance, as a bodyguard and also a specialist police officer getting deployed on... specialist tasks overseas and in Australia. We worked hard, trained hard and you know, very demanding on the body and brain. I didn't know a lot about the brain back then, certainly we had to have mental toughness but yeah, the physical side of that was really, really important.
Another element of where I am today is my mental health. And obviously mental health's a big discussion point and fortunately we're doing more than just talking about it these days. But I've suffered from depression for many years and once I sort of moved through the self care from the mental health perspective, I... really started getting interested in the brain and that's probably the main turning point of what led to me talking about brainy athletes and leaders and teams. And then there's the last element of that story is the... the leadership side of it. I started doing workshops around leadership and high performance a few years ago and it's a core part of my business. And like a lot of people you hear all the leadership theories and all the stuff that's been around for a long time and I thought there's got to be more than this and discovered neuroscience of leadership. Neuroleadership is the most common term and that's been a really big part of my life for the last four or five years.
Brilliant that's really helpful context. Now what, or perhaps, who is the brainy athlete?
I love the term.
Yeah, there's a couple of perspectives to this. It's the who part is anybody with a brain can be a brainy athlete. Absolutely. And also There's the what, what is a brainy athlete. It's also a mindset or a way of life. And obviously both are intricately connected in terms of the person and the mindset. And obviously it's a book. And look, the definition that I use for a brainy athlete is somebody who prioritises their brain to improve their performance and wellbeing. That's, it's, the brainy athlete sounds like it's gonna make you suddenly smarter and your IQ will jump through the roof, but that's not what the point of the story is either. But having said that, if you prioritize your brain and take care of it, you're research and our own experiences tend to tell us that we'll have more cognitive resources available and then we will be able to think more clearly and make better decisions and you know be calmer and all those positive things where our brains functioning much better. Wonderful.
So you mentioned the book The Brainy Athlete, which published very recently. Could you share a little about it? Who is it written for and what is the goal that you have for your reader?
Yeah, yeah, great question. So the brainy athlete, firstly, hat off to you and your team, Scott, wouldn't live, exist today if it wasn't for you and your team, so I really appreciate that, and we'll obviously talk about that in a bit more detail later, but I wrote it for athletes, and that was one of the stinging points we can get into a bit later, is that I... Once I had a clear idea of who I was riding it for, the athletes out there who have got busy lives, you know, they're working. Not everybody's a professional athlete who gets paid squillions of dollars and can afford to, you know, sit around and rest and recover. But having said that, I've worked with professional athletes as well who, although they might be contracted and that sort of thing, they still have demanding lives as well. and just sit around on the couch all day and then just turn up to training and perform. You know, it's athletes across all spectrums are busy people. And we're busy people in our lifestyles. You know, that places cognitive demands on our brains, which then affects our physical performance as well as our wellbeing. So anyone with a busy brain, they can benefit from the book. because it's, while it's written for athletes, there is athlete specific content in there, but at the same time it talks about how do athletes take care of their brain when they're in the workplace and at home so they turn up stronger mentally. to training competition, so it's no different to anybody in any workplace. It's the sort of things that are going to help you perform better in the workplace and take care of your brain as the days are busy. What's the goal? It's more than just a book on a bunch of skills and strategies. I actually want to change or help people develop a more loving, stronger relationship with their brain, which sounds a bit weird, but when you think about it, your brain's with you for life. So it's a partner for life, it never leaves you. And you'll never have another one because brain transplants aren't a thing yet. Who knows what will happen down the track? So, and the problem is, I think, is the brain suffers from being out of sight, out of mind. So what I mean by that is unlike our physical appearance, for instance, we don't see our brain in the mirror. We don't have a lot of... gadgets, or most people don't, to measure their weight, their pace if they're a runner, how much weight they can live, how good they look in the mirror once they've done a gym session. So that sort of stuff's in your face every day. The clothes, photographs, but our brain is just hidden inside our skulls. So the real intent of my book is to just give people a guiding... sort of pathway to developing a stronger relationship with their brain. And one of the key elements of the book, or the key principles of the book, is it's about prioritisation, not perfection, because all of us make crappy decisions during the day. We don't always make the best decisions for our brain, and that's okay. It's not about perfection. It's like just understanding that the more consistent you are at taking care of your brain to allow it to rest and recover, the better off. cognitively and physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, everything are you going to be because your brain is the center of everything.
And how did you find the writing process? Because you've got so much expertise and experience, and often it can be difficult to get that out of your head, onto the page. Did you find that easy and natural, or was it a challenge?
Certainly wasn't natural. You know, I've been in jobs most of my life where writing's been a critical part of what you do, but it's totally different. And I think it's... I think I've always had writing in me. I look back to when I was a young kid and even in primary school, which is 12 years and under here in Australia.
I remember getting in a spot with another guy off on a writing camp. We went away for a couple of days on this writing camp. I can't remember exactly what we wrote, but it was sort of like, hey, you're good at writing, we'll send you away and learn a few things. And I know that I've got to... When you clean out all your stuff from when you were a kid, I had all these notebooks and things like that where I just wrote stories. I loved writing stories. It was all stuff like Indiana Jones sort of stuff, adventure stuff that I used to write when I was a kid. So I've always had writing in me, and then I think I lost my creativity for a long time. Sort of got caught up in the workflow, and policing was my life for a while, and sort of wasn't really creative about things. And...
But then in 2016, had some major changes with work and things like that, and I just really found that creative spark. So that sort of was the start of this journey. It certainly wasn't the start of the book. The book was probably three years in the making.
And I had a book coach. That was a really important part of the process for me because I had no idea how to write a book. And I think if there's one lesson, I'll talk about this more a bit later perhaps but the structure is critical, it's just like any writing. It's important to get the stuff out of your head, absolutely, and no idea is a bad idea when you get it out of your head.
Certainly the editors and your own self-editing will... pick out the stuff that doesn't work and doesn't fit, but at the end of the day it's sitting down and getting it out of your head. But if you've got a structure in place, at least you know how to structure that chapter and what the book is, that's going to require a lot less rewriting, I guess, later on. Because one of the other things that my coach told me early on was that the book doesn't have to be the book. there's more than one book in people and at the end of the day if you try to write about everything in one book, where do you stop, where do you end and the book sort of loses focus. So that's one of the things that I really found beneficial. But probably the hardest thing for me until I got it right was actually working out my one ideal reader. So that was drummed into me and I know when we first spoke that wasn't that long after I had... worked out who my ideal reader was and once I'd worked that out things just flowed but until then I sort of had this two year manuscript which was sort of hard all over the place and it was all about brain stuff and trying to help people but there was no clear picture on who I was actually writing it for so once I worked that out that's when I knew I had to I got it out and that's when I you and I started working together but before that it was like I don't even know where I'm heading with this.
Yeah, identifying that core reader seems to unlock many things, doesn’t it? And it’s not just during the writing process, it then comes back when talking about cover design and how you’re going to get the book out there.
Let's talk a little about the publishing process a bit. How did you find the publishing process? What was interesting, exciting, unexpected, frustrating?
Yeah, look, the publishing process, first time I've ever worked with publishers. with you and your team and you know look it I had no idea what to expect to be honest I mean I've put in plenty of briefs and executive correspondence and things like that and you get the red pen through it and that's how you learn and you know at the end of the day you know that you're working with people that have got your best intentions in mind and that's one of the thing that I've you know I was really comfortable with I when I had you know worked with Olivia and particularly early on when we had our first call was, she asked me, you know, what's off limits and what are her boundaries? And I just said, well, other than the, you know, two or three key concepts that I told her about the book, which one was changing the relationship with our brain, I said, go your hardest, you're the expert. And she was great, she was communication throughout the whole. publishing process from start to finish was fantastic and I didn't take any of the editing personally. It wasn't like... trying to change my ideas or anything like that. And that was one of the great things about it is that I'm the person with the idea and the publisher being yourselves, the people who are best placed to get those ideas out onto paper in a way that's going to connect with the reader. And when you're a sort of creative person who's got all these ideas, you can get quite scattery and... They can go all over the place and you know things back to front, but it doesn't mean the reader's going to be in the same place. So that's where that publishing process was really good. And the other thing is the re-edits, the back and forth part was just... value added so much to the actual content, the end product. One thing I really did enjoy was the book designing with Julia, back and forth with the little designs and I went out to a couple of people and said which color do you like, which one's better, the white or the blue front, we went with the blue front. She did an amazing job and Ania being the middle person coordinating all this just made things so easy with all that. So I really enjoyed the publishing process, it didn't scare me away, certainly. And there might be another book down the track, who knows.
Wonderful, wonderful. We talked a little bit about what your goals were for your reader, which obviously with a book is critically important, but as entrepreneurs, as leaders, we've also got goals for ourselves. What are your business goals for your book and how are you using it to support your business?
Yeah, really good question. It's one of those questions you ask yourself at the start of the book is what I actually want this book to do. We can't all be J.K. Rowlings and Stephen Kings and make millions of dollars out of our books. So you've got to understand what I'm actually trying to do with this book in the first place and what's the goal. My goal absolutely was... to just bring greater awareness to how important the brain is for athletes. And I've worked with, or I work with athletes, I love working with the athletes. They're already highly motivated people, but just like anybody, they struggle with getting the balance right physically, mentally, emotionally, When I was trying to work out what am I going to actually write this book about and did the research and that sort of thing you realise that... There's so many people focus on their physical performance, but they don't really pay any attention to their brain. So from a business perspective, I really just want to, the number one goal is to get this book into as many people's hands as I can, or it might be on their Kindle, because it's in ebook as well. And it's also in an audio book as well. So however people want to listen to it or read it. So from a business perspective, it's the number one goal is to get it into as many people's hands as possible. because the book itself is a guide book on rest and recovery for your brain and understanding a lot of the science behind it. So the business goal, I guess, is just like your opening statement was, simplifying brain science, and that's what I do. And when people work with me, either from athletic performance, leadership... whatever it is, the brain always is the centrepiece. And I've only done workshops this week, for example, where I talk about the brain at the start of the opening of the workshops and people are like, well, yeah, what's that actually mean? And then I start going into the neuroscience and I... I say, don't be scared, I'm not going to give you a science lesson. I failed physics and chemistry at school when I was 17 years old. I didn't study very well, but fortunately I did a bit better in the brain science stuff a bit later in life. But really, it's like anything the book is. It gives people a clear picture on what I can offer, what I can deliver, and if it resonates with people, that's where they want to make... make gains or improve themselves in their life, there's opportunities there to work together.
And I know it's still early days, but how has it been going so far?
It's been really good, yeah. Look, again, it's such a new experience. I didn't know what to expect, and I've been pretty happy, and the feedback has been phenomenal. everybody from professional athletes to amateur full-time working athletes to non-athletes have reached out to me and said how beneficial the book is. And probably the chapter that's resonated most with people is about streamlining your screen time. So there's a chapter in there on about digital screens are part of our lives, absolutely. I mean that's where we are now. We're looking at each other on a video. and talking. That's where we spend a lot of our lives but it's understanding there's consequences when we don't take breaks and we don't rest our brain from just being on screens all the time and that's one that's really resonated with people and that's one that I've had professional coaches and... elite athletes say to me that even just subtle little changes with the time on their screens has made a big difference for them. And the science is in the book about how it impacts our brain. One of the other really rewarding things is that I've had quite a few people reach out to me that I've never met before as well. People who are involved in cycling, triathlons, cricketers. these are all people who have reached out to me asking where they can get the book and I've steered them in the right direction and you know again the feedback's been great so it's really rewarding that it's hit the markets that I was actually aiming for which is your athletes from all walks of life but also non-athletes so that's been really rewarding.
Excellent. That's really, really great to hear. One thing that I really like to ask people that I have on the podcast who've gone through this entrepreneur to author journey. What advice would you give those who have considered writing a book but haven’t actually taken the plunge yet?
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. You're probably in the majority more so than the people who have written books. And it's just I really encourage people to just take that next step and just have that belief. And I tell when people say to me, you know, it's amazing. You've written a book. And when you've actually done something, you know, you feel really proud about it and you do feel rewarding. But it's like you don't. I don't feel special because I've written a book and that's where you try and ground yourself back to other people and say, well everybody's got at least one book in them, I believe it. Will everyone write a book? No they won't. But if that's what somebody wants to do it's just having that self-belief that what you have to say is valuable and I always said from the start, if this changes one person's life and improves their life, it's been worth it. and I know it's changed my life because I've learned a lot more about the subject by researching the subject as I wrote it. So the journey of writing a book is not just about the end product, it's about what you learn as you research, unpack your ideas, put them together into something that stands for you and it leaves a lasting legacy. I was asked actually at the book launch... was the most rewarding and what was the hardest part of writing the book. And I started talking about a couple of things and then I happened to flick open the book and I dedicated my book to our miniature snails, Asachi. She died in January this year while we were going through the publishing process. And... I've just reached the stage now whenever I mention a name, I don't start crying. But yeah, she was 15 years old, so she had a great life. But I dedicated the book to her and it made me, I had a realisation point that, you know what, no matter what happens with this book, whether it sells. 20 copies or 2,000 or 20,000, Saatchi lives on forever in this book. And that's the thing about writing a book is that, you can write something that is gonna make a difference to people's lives now and you never know when I'm long gone and forgotten about who knows, this book might still be around to actually make a difference in somebody's life. And I think that's a really powerful thing to leave behind. And... I think your first book doesn't have to be your whole life out on display for everybody either. It doesn't have to be a raw conversation about you, so you can be vulnerable as you want to be. And I know for a lot of people... just actually putting a book out is very uncomfortable because people are going to look at it and we're going to be judged but at the end of the day it's your message, it's your gift you can give to other people. There's always, there's a lot of people out there who are looking for what people can share with them because the power of writing and the power of sharing ideas and things like that, there's always people out there who are gonna benefit from what you've got to share.
That's really well said. Gaz, how can people get in touch with you to learn more about what you do? you do?
Yeah, yeah, so they can buy the book. It's got all my contact details in it, that'd be great. But also I've got a website, gazmills.com. I'm on social media. Actually it's funny, I talk about the screen time in there and social media itself and it's a very important part of the marketing process of... your own business and that sort of thing, but I've actually taken a two-week hiatus from social media. I haven't published anything for two weeks and it's been a bit liberating, I've got to say. But I do have the Instagram and the LinkedIn and that sort of thing and I'll get back into doing that, but I've had a nice little break. But yeah, people can DM me on Instagram or the email. Contact details are on the website as well as in the book. But yeah, just flick us a message and as I said, I've had people I've never met before DM me on Instagram and that sort of thing and just ask me about the book and sharing their ideas and I will get back to them when I check. I obviously put in boundaries because I streamline my screen time. So I don't get back to you straight away, you know why.
Good for you. Well we'll be sure to put those links in the show notes for easy reference.
Gaz, this has been incredibly interesting and helpful for our audience. Thank you so much for joining us and sharing your expertise and experience.
Yeah, thanks very much, Scott. And yeah, it's been great chatting with you and wish everybody well out there. And thanks very much for listening.
As we wrap up this episode of Entrepreneur to Author, remember this…Now is the time. Time to write, time publish and time to grow. I’m Scott McMillan. Until next time.