Ant Middleton: Learning from failure & taking ownership
We dig deep into the #emotional #resilience, control of #emotions and #vulnerability with non other than #TV Personality and former Special Forces soldier #Ant #Middleton.
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I’m sitting here with Ant Middleton. Thank you for taking your time to share some of your stories. Why don’t you briefly introduce yourself to start?
Ant Middleton: Yeah, I’m Ant Middleton. I’m a TV personality now which sounds pretty bizarre compared to my other career which was in the special boat service in the United Kingdom Special Forces. So from living in the shadows, now I live in the limelight and so quite an interesting career change that we say but an exciting one.
Jan Gerber: Brilliant. I mean you have been in your old life, the one in the shadows, you have been through a lot of tough experiences, a lot of challenges both physically and emotionally. And you talk a lot in your book and in your public appearances about resilience. The resilience that you build, the resilience that people need to make it through the tough patches in life. And for yourself, what’s the specific turning point in your life that you can pinpoint where that resilience-building started or was it more of a process for you.
Ant Middleton: There wasn’t really a turning point I would say, it’s in a progression of childhood, military and even leaving the military. So, my childhood when my father passed away, we have to move to France. Moving from France back to the UK joining the military at the age of 16. I went from quite a tough patch there. Obviously, my training and my tours of duty in Afghanistan, I had done three tours in Afghanistan and then leaving the military. So there wasn’t one particular turning point it was just a progression of lots of little ones that built up to I suppose, the biggest one, which was when I left the military and I found myself in prison.
Jan Gerber: Right so, basically the resilience you built to deal with difficult situations, particularly also emotionally difficult situations was in a way for you also a series of chances and is there any advice you have for people who do not aim to go or do not have the chance to go down the military training track? Because to build resilience on a level where they can take a lot of things and those things life will sooner or later throw at them. Because I would presume as not a trained soldier that the training that you went through especially as an elite soldier was part of a lot of that resilience that you were able to gather in your life.
Ant Middleton: Yeah, I wouldn’t say it was maybe the military. You know there are a lot of things in life that challenge people and it’s about holding yourself accountable. It’s about taking ownership of who you are and ultimately, taking on that challenge and it could be the military, it could be being a parent, it could be work, it could be social life, it could be a situation that’s just presented itself. I think what resilience is, is not being afraid of failure, not being afraid of fear, and ultimately, challenging that, ultimately, learning from it and exposing yourself to hardship, to suffering, to adversity that’s where resilience is built up from, it doesn’t have to be through a military program. It’s just through everyday life but, ultimately, it is about identifying that situation, taking ownership of it, holding yourself accountable, and tackling it face on.
A lot of people who shy away or they have the easy option and they choose the easy option and therefore, you will not build resilience if you do that. The easy option is something in life that is presented to us on a plate where if you decide to step off that path to challenge yourself that’s where you build up resilience and ultimately you expose who you are, you expose your emotions and you learn to deal with them, that’s what resilience is, it doesn’t have to be climbing Mount Everest, being in a special boat service, being in a special forces, being in the military. It is about taking on the challenges that with challenge you and test you.
Jan Gerber: So you’re saying that when we grow up as children, young adults, adults, we should make conscious decisions pointing again to when we have a choice to maybe not take the easy way but set a challenge for ourselves or create discomfort or challenging situations for ourselves or even seek adversity at times, if it is not just thrown at us in the first place.
Ant Middleton: Absolutely, I think as adults we have that sense of duty, that sense of responsibility for our children, for our future generation to build this in them. I remember when I was a youngster and I was at beach and I didn’t want to get into the water and my stepfather lifted me up and I was kicking, screaming and crying. Nowadays, people would be like, “What you doing? You can’t do that.” He picked me up and literally threw me in the sea and my brothers were already in the sea, so it wasn’t anything dangerous. And I hit the water and I hated him for about 30 seconds and then after that, you couldn’t get me out the water, I wanted to stay in the water. But then the decision I made not to get into the water ultimately which he fitted on his head. So, it gave me a new lease of life for water. After that, I loved going to the beach. I loved being in the water. You couldn’t get me out of the water. And it’s little prominent points like that that I remember that I think, “Wow, that built up my resilience to actually try something that I’m scared of or to challenge adversity.”
And something small like that sticks in my head from all those years ago.
But, if you look at day and age now, if you look at society nowadays. You used to say, oh my child was crying and they didn’t want me to do this but I forced them to do it. God, you’d be put under the magnifying glass and then why did you do that? And I see small things in life that really, really, really counts and I think we have a really big responsibility as adults to step up to the mark and to still have that resilience in us and show our children that sometimes failure is the best option or adversity is the best option, go down that road, figure it out, that’s what being a kid is all about.
Jan Gerber: And what forms us as kids, young adults is a sense of achievement, so presumably once you are in the water and you manage to keep yourself afloat and actually start enjoying it, it’s a sense of achievement for you. And how far do you think that’s something that you experience this way now as a positive memory which was at the time very scary. How much does that come down to you as a person who you were at the time, how were you ticked at the time or do you think that’s generally applicable or could you find it in other kids in a different situation and who have been thrown into the water possibly got so scared that they wouldn’t want to see the water for another few years after that.
Ant Middleton: there’s obviously the safe environment. I was a good swimmer, I always swim, it wasn’t into a deep end, it was just in the water on the beach I could stand up, I was at waist height but once I was wet, I was wet. So I’m not talking about shocking someone into a danger situation or something where it’s really going to traumatize them but just dipping your toe literally into the ocean like yeah, just progressively doing it.
Jan Gerber: Pushing the limit a little bit.
Ant Middleton: Yeah, pushing the limit so that’s what life is about. You push those limits, you learn something, you live in this new exciting space. Again, you push it again, you live in this new exciting space, you learn something, you grow. And that’s what life is about, it’s just constantly just pushing these limits little by little because you will learn and you will grow from it. So and that’s what I do with my children.
Jan Gerber: You touched on an interesting point which is pushing out of the comfort zone. There is an abundance of research in what makes emotionally grounded healthy and also professionally successful adults and one common denominator you have to find there is exactly that, people who learn to go to the edge of the comfort zone, go beyond that edge which is initially very, very, very uncomfortable but at some point realizing with the rewards that you get by doing that. Just by feeling good about having achieved something you weren’t comfortable in even attempting and that can build a purpose and that resilience and at some point, you learn to actually embrace those challenges. And then you choose the adversity or the more challenging situation possibly over the more comfortable one at some point. Because you know you will be rewarded for that. But it’s probably out in the nature especially as kids that we need that extra push.
Ant Middleton: Yeah, I think this comes down to emotional resilience and emotional intelligence, controlling your emotions in these situations to achieve is absolutely key. I’ve been in situations in the military where I’ve had to control my emotions to get the job done. If I broke down and started crying and started shaking and then I put my guys at risk and I put myself at risk, life or death situations. But I controlled my emotions to get the job done. But the moment you can learn to control your emotions what you’re doing, you’re exposing those emotions. If you let those emotions take over then you’re not learning anything. You’re not learning how to control your emotions. So emotional resilience doesn’t exist because the emotion present itself, it takes you, “Oh, it’s okay, there are your emotions.”. Take control of them, the more you expose in certain emotion whether it’s fear for example. The more you expose it, the more you control it, the more you’re going to learn about it. The first time you might be absolutely petrified you might sit still, you might freeze. Do it again. You might freeze and then you might take a step forward, Okay then and exposure, exposure, exposure and again you’re going to learn how to control your emotions. It’s like with anything else.. That exposure. I’m an extreme doer. I do, do, do, do, do, I expose, expose, expose, expose. And every time I unlayer something so that’s the thought process that I have whether that’s emotional resilience, mental resilience, controlling fear, controlling failure. They’re all part of life. The big things that stop us in life stop us from achieving is failure and fear. The fear, woom! Okay, we won’t even go there, challenge it because like you said, once you get past that and you feel like you’ve got that sense of achievement. Even if it’s a small sense, even if you fail but you learn something about yourself. You’re going to grow therefore you re-attack, you re-expose. And then you’re going to learn something that’s what life is about is this small progression in the right direction in life. You want to be doing that till the day you die because that’s what your purpose in life.
So I’m a big advocate on that and I believe that through adversity and hardship you will be resilient both emotionally and mentally. And I practice that with my children.
Jan Gerber: And how far do you think that’s what you’re saying and obviously, that’s your own experience and your reality that this has worked very well for you, and how far do you think that’s a question of degree of severity. For example, when controlling your emotions and there is, let’s call it an industry of mental health and therapy and so on. There is a concept of when you try to control your adverse emotions and you do that for too long it just keep them in and they build up and eat you up from the inside which can then, if you don’t have an outlet, if you don’t have anybody to talk to about your inner darkness, it can really build to something very, very negatively powerful. And some people then pay the ultimate price, the suicide rates are staggering. So my question, simply put, do you think what you’re saying is it a degree severity or intensity where your approach works and if somebody just gets thrown something at them that they just can’t handle it they might breaks, they get traumatized? And we can talk about trauma and PTSD in a little bit. We can talk about trauma and PTSD in a little bit. Is there a line ? Does it depend on the person? or is there a principal that in your experience could be true in any situation?
Ant Middleton: There’s a difference between resilience and emotional fatigue, chronic fatigue where the emotion is too overwhelming and you do go down this road of Mental Health or PTSD whatever it may be. So, there’s a fine line to it, but again they’re your emotions, only you know really how far you have been pushed or when you need to, when you need an outlet for such. For example: when I get emotionally stressed; stressed let’s say I’ll go out and I’ll do an activity. I’ll go out and I’ll climb a mountain. Something as extreme as that. I’ll go out and I’ll run or ill swim. I have these outlets because I have recognized where my outlets are. If you don’t recognize where your outlets are and it builds up and builds up and that’s not a good situation to be in.
I would always recommend and I always have recommended to talk, it is the best outlet that you can do is to talk to someone if it’s too much talk, to a loved one, talk to a friend, talk to a stranger if it makes you feel better. But there is also that line of pushing people down that avenue of talking, you know, I’ll say to people and they will say to me: “ Ant, I don’t want to talk.” And I am like; how do you know if you have never done it? So I would always say to people: talk because if you don’t know, you don’t know what the effect it is going to have. Lots of people when they have started talking and it’s the best thing they have ever done, brilliant, well guess what, you need to keep talking.
Then I will have some people say : well I have spoken and it’s not really for me, I would rather keep it in; like I do. I did that with my father. My father’s death from when I was 5 years old. I speak about it very rarely. Does it do me any good? Not really. I prefer to hold that it in. They are my memories, a few dark places that I don’t want to revisit but I manage them.
The moment someone is really trying to push me into that, that’s when I would go the other way. I would be like: “There must be something wrong with me, am I suffering from mental health? Have I got PTSD?” Even from the military and it’s like I’m dealing with this quite well and I’ve talked about it a couple of times but I’m quite happy on that subject. I’m quite happy to pull that back and that’s why we have to be really careful when it comes to mental health because some people talk, brilliant. Absolutely…. you keep talking to your mom, you keep talking to your parents, you keep talking to your loved ones, great! There are some people who’ll be like : but I am being pushed to see a psychologist and being pushed down, I don’t really want to go down that. And all of a sudden they’re being pushed down this mental health world. When really they don’t… they are quite happy just to get on and just to block that part out, which we know for me, it’s worked for me so it does work for other people.
But, I have seen the hovers of both sides. I have seen soldiers suffering from PTSD that have wanted to take their own lives, friends of mine. I’ve gone with everything I’ve done to prevent that. I think once they have someone have made that decision, that they no longer want to be here, you can talk, talk, talk all you want. You can’t get into that person’s head, you can’t get into that person’s mind and all it takes is for one action and everything is done. So there is a fine balance between it and what I mean by that is also is that helping the people that need help and then there is forcing people that don’t need help we have to be really careful of that. Because ultimately, we will be categorizing everybody into one box. Ultimately, we need to talk about that. do we do we do this for that and then we can take him or her out of that category or out of that box but ultimately once you’re falling over that and you’re going too far then yes there’s a group for that.
So having seen both sides and having experienced both sides; I have been and that edge where it’s like if I don’t take charge of myself, if I don’t try and understand what’s going on then I’m going to fall. And then then I’m going to hand that responsibility over to other people when ultimately we have the answer. And it does take for other people to unlay and go: “I’ve got it” but some people …. and It does the reverse effect.
Jan Gerber: It doesn’t help that mental health is something so complex, you can’t just have a 2 minute conversation and just look at someone and say you need to talk to someone or actually you need to see a psychiatrist or actually you will be fine. So it is a lot of confusion often around it and it doesn’t help is that people who are affected, and that you have had friends suffering from PTSD and you’re not in a position to like actually I need help please find me someone or, actually, I’ll find someone who can help me professionally and there’s a lot of denial first of all and it’s hard to admit and actually I have reached an emotional point where I can’t deal with my emotions, with my trauma and I need help. That’s a hard point to reach and often it’s friends, it’s family who are like you need to do something but then you’re again pushed into that.
Ant Middleton: yeah of course
Jan Gerber: And it is often well intended and sometimes it can do more harm that just creates a lot of complexity. I think what is important is to just that everybody understands and accepts that there are people out there who do need help and that if you encounter someone that’s why we encourage them but in a benign way, in an understanding way, in a listening way not like you need to see a psychiatrist because you are crazy.
Ant Middleton: you can do it very discreetly you can do these things very discreetly without them thinking that they’ve got a problem because the one thing that you don’t want to do with some people is go you have got a problem you are not normal and then people are like wow so you know when people…keep a very close eye out because when people might mentioned something and you might just want to elaborate on that or you might just say what did you say about your mom or your pal that you buried or it’s good that is it was a good send-off or that I’ve done that so many times.
People have done that to me. I have buried three or four friends very close friends in the ground and then one day would be out and I would be talking and then boom I bring it up and I’m not one to and then someone and before I know it a spoken about it for an hour and I don’t even realize that and then I’ve come out and I feel very refreshed I feel very, very good about it. It’s just that I’ve only spoke about it unintentionally, because it came up in conversation, for an hour. Now I know what my friends are doing because I have done it to them. So, there is that way of dealing with things ,it’s almost like prevention before the cure but hmmm
Jan Gerber: It’s part of a probably a cure you’re not aware of. It’s a processing of emotions and memories and let me get to one point that you often mentioned in your book. Don’t let anyone tell you who you are. My question to you then is how does it fit in a context when you go through extreme training and real life missions as you have you must have changed as a person. Are you still the same Ant that went to primary school? The same Ant that lost his dad, who was bullied at school?
Ant Middleton: No, no. What I mean is that as a child, you’re going to learn, you’re going to grow, but what shocks me is adults. When the brain is fully developed, when you’re fully developed, and we’l always learn and we’ll always grow. That’s the purpose in life. But we now have a responsibility to look down on our generation and like know I’ve been mentored and bought up now it’s my responsibility to… Adults are looking to adults to still be brought up and you are like take get a grip of yourself you know take charge of yourself you should be looking down at your children or our future generation and showing leading by example you know. I’m very sort of old-school, but I’m very sort of set in my ways of .. We’re adults, we know right from wrong, we make a difference, there’s a difference between making bad life decisions and then needing extreme help, shall we say. So when you get to that level of responsibility I believe that as adults we should uphold that. Yeah people go through trauma, people go through…. But guess what, everyone has a story, everyone has been through some kind of trauma. That is life, it’s about understanding and grasping that actually that’s life. That’s what makes me the person that I am today. I’ll be different in 10 years’ time.
I’m not saying I won’t change but ultimately I won’t let people tell me who I am. how the hell are you going to know to try to tell me why or how I feel you’re not inside my body you know you know a bit of me but ultimately only I know me. It’s almost that flip reversing of why wouldn’t you want to know more about yourself I find it fascinating to keep learning about myself. I’m revealing these new emotions I’m layering just another part of the emotion, you know, just thinking differently or seeing things differently as I get older. I find that fascinating and also it’s that no one can tell me that apart from me. So I would never let anyone define me. I let people forge me, don’t get me wrong. I like the way you dealt with that or I love their attitude and that… I am always building on the best version of myself… You know yourself better than anyone else and the real answers, the true answers are within and guess what: only we as individuals know them and I’m a strong believer that.
Jan Gerber: You have a very reflective way of how you see yourself, how you’ve developed of how you deal with situations. Also in your book often you describe situation and then you reflect on it; what’s brought you to that decision sometimes through intuitive thinking process. So it absolutely makes appearance that you’re somebody who is well reflected on yourself and who you are and what you take. I think a lot of people out there are very confused with themselves, who they are and can’t really put emotions into play or make sense of their emotional reactions or their decisions. Often people make rash decisions also out of impulsiveness, out of anger, frustration..
Ant Middleton: It’s all about growing and learning. That’s life I’ve learned about I have got sympathy towards situations and people when and their upbringing and what they’ve been through you know it’s life its life you know what do you want to help every single person in this world but it’s the moments you can take charge of yourself and take ownership of who you are then… I find that so empowering because then I can hand that over to other people. I can hand over to future generations, not just my children but other children even adults even people older than me I find that very empowering. I find it very saddening to be fair that people go through their life confused and never sort of really figuring it out and then dying. It’s like a waste of life
Jan Gerber: Maybe it would be to their benefit if they had somebody at some point in their life who pushed them to their comfort zone, for them to actually realize that there’s more potential then they admit to themselves.
Ant Middleton: Yeah I think that is great. Mentors are great and having the right people around you is absolutely key. I have found that too in my life but I’ve spent most of my childhood, most of my military career; if you speak to my colleagues, by myself. I figured it out by myself and I sit here as a 38 year-old man, not having figured it all out. Nowhere near that and I wouldn’t want to either but you know having a good foundation of who I am. A foundation that I could build on and I think that’s what lacks a lot of people. They haven’t even got that Foundation that they can build on. They need that, those building blocks to be able to start that off. A lot of people never find that in their life and once you’ve had that Foundation you can build those building blocks on it.
Jan Gerber: I mean that Foundation is an initial resilience, an initial stability that they can develop on base of that.
Ant Middleton: I have been in so many situations in my life. The reason why I can speak so passionately and so openly about it is that I’ve been at the top of my career. I have been in prison where I’ve had nothing, where everything was at the lowest of the low. I’ve buried friends, I’ve been in life and death situations. I’ve been in situations where if I didn’t take charge of who I was and didn’t take charge of my mind then I would be in a very, very different situation than what I’m in now so the power of positivity the power of knowing who will you are ultimately sets those foundations and it’s just about getting out there and realizing what you’re capable of. Sitting around thinking about it and moping about it is not going to expose what needs to get exposed so that you can pick from and build on.
So I’m quite [ianudible30:24] for it to be fair.
Jan Gerber: Brilliant. And we briefly talked about one forming period of our lives which is our childhood. Then, there is a period in our lives that can be equally challenging is when we retire. And there are statistics that when people reach the official retirement age, more talented peaks, why is that? There is a lot of no guessing why that would be and it does make sense that people, they lose structure, they lose a sense of purpose and a sense of identity also. I’d like to talk to you about this a little bit because you retired from active duty and which was a big transition, I presume. When professional athletes, when they retire at probably a similar age from the top of their career, they also have to go through a phase of where they lose that structure you’re not doing the training camps, you don’t have to eat exactly according to your schedule, you’re not constantly tested for this and that and also you’re not out in the field anymore doing what you love to do, doing what you’re trained and what’s been ingrained in you to do every day.
So often, people are faced with a lot of time struggling with their own identity and often purpose, is that something you can relate to when you’re active duty career came to an end?
Ant Middleton: Yeah, absolutely. When I left the military, I thought that I could just jump into any [inaudible 32:20] of four hours, stable enough to do that, but then the whole sense of belonging, the whole identity issue comes in and I didn’t think it would have such a major role in the transition from being a military man to trying to fit into society but that was really, really tough for me. And I didn’t really want to accept it. I didn’t really want to acknowledge it, but when I look back on it now and reflect on it, that was a tough transition. I made so many mistakes. The main mistake that I made was this whole, “Once a marine, always a marine.” And it’s like, you’re not in the marines anymore.
But then, well, if I’m not in the marine, who am I? Well, you’re just like everyone else, you’ve got to start somewhere and you’ve got to build your way up. But, ultimately, when you step out of a position of, not only of, authority but of eliteness at that level and you jump into the unknown, you think you’re going to start off on this level, it’s wrong. Don’t get me wrong, you’re not going to start on the bottom of the ladder, you’ll probably start two or three runs up but you’re not going to start in round 10. No, it’s a whole new sort of reality check. And that was very hard to accept. You go out and you think, “All, right, I’ve earned this.” But, you need to keep earning it your whole life. You need to keep earning that run on that ladder. You need to start somewhere. And I always say to people, no matter what career or lifestyle change you transition into, you have to start at the back of the queue, okay. But what a lot of people do, they start at the back of the queue and after six months to a year, they think they can jump out and take the short cut because they’ve had such a good career before. And they take a short cut and they get lost in and around the bizarres and before you know it, two, three years later. They find their way back to the queue and they have to jump at the back of the queue again.
Jan Gerber: I think it’s the human trait. It’s [inaudible 34:38] to progress and that’s why economies always have to grow. Our generation has to have it better than the last generation, otherwise, if you had the same quality of life, same incomes as our parent’s generation, we’d be unhappy. And also, the traditional career trajectory, people want to get promoted to earn more, have more status and making a step back is immensely hard. Also financially, often you hear people who will used to live with a certain income level or a certain lifestyle and for whatever reason they lose that or lose part of that, they have to take a step back, that’s emotionally, immensely hard.
Ant Middleton: But what you must remember is we are not entitled to anything in life. You have to earn your money, you have to earn your position, you have to earn your status, you’re not entitled to anything. And I think that’s where a lot of people get it wrong. They have this sense of entitlement, okay. And whether that’s from being a part of a hierarchy, financially up there on annual basis and then that whole change is like, “Well, I was getting it there, I’m entitled to it now, surely.” Or, “I was at that position of authority, I should automatically drag that over and bring that with me.” No, you’ve got to sort of lose that and drop that attitude and this whole zuperburg effect. I call it the zuperburg effect where people think they can be millionaires overnight. That they think that career now is do an app, or six months to a year if they haven’t made a million pounds, well, guess what, I’m going to change career. And they jump over and they do that their whole lives. Where if they had stayed in that career. A career is 15, 20, 30 years long. At the end of that career, if you work hard, you will work your way up. You will live comfortably. You will hopefully, enjoy your later days in life.
But this whole sense of entitlement of I don’t need to work I can be a millionaire within or a very successful career’s person, whatever career you’ve chosen in a year or two, it’s not reality, it’s not real. And that’s why I talk about the sense of reality that we have as adults, just that ownership and hold yourself accountable, show that this isn’t real And in this day and age and I’m all for.. I’m very much I move along with the times, I get it. I do get it. but, also, I do drag this 30, 40% of this old school resilience, this old school reality of actually work ethic, respect, manners, being able to socialize with people, keeping it real, acknowledging the situation or the person for what it is. Now, no sugar coating it, no, go, “ I’m going to jump into this career while in two years’ time, he got up to like a hundred grand a year. So, no, don’t look at life like that. And that’s why I talk about this resilience as a mental state. It’s just stripping all down to very, very basics, keeping it very, very simple but keeping it real. And I think that in this society now, it’s just gone too far where everyone’s entitled to something. People say, “I can’t find a job. I talk to sixteen, seventeen year olds, “I can’t find a job, there is no job out there.” I reckon that within the next three hours, I could walk around this town centre and I could find a job.
“Doing what? Collecting glasses, a bomb and…”
“Well, I don’t want to do that.”
“But what do you want to do? You’ve got GCSEs, What do you want to do?”
“Well, I want to this…”
“Well, to get to that level you’ve got 15, 20 years boy.”
So do you understand what I mean? So there is this whole sort of reality bubble where people like, “Well, you can do what you want, you can be who you want to be, you can… “
Yes to a certain extent, but get a grip, that is not real. Guess what? You can’t be who you want to be because you haven’t worked for it. And you can’t do this because you have to go through this process, this process, and this process. Just because you’re this, this, and this doesn’t mean you’re going to jump up there. Because that’s not real, it doesn’t work like that. You need to earn, you’re not entitled to stuff. And I think there’s that whole push and pull now where we’re too far over here, where we just need to stay here, move along with the times, but we just need to bring this realism back into, not only ourselves but into our future generation.
Jan Gerber: But I hear out of your story is two things. A few points that you mention I think you can boil down to purpose. You need to identify and know your purpose, and at the same time, you need to be pragmatic and realistic and you need to bring that together.
Ant Middleton: It’s a hybrid.
Jan Gerber: I mean some people they do achieve amazing things in life and they only do so because they’ve not listened to anybody else, they’ll just be like, “I’m going to do this. I’m going to build this up or whatever. Ant don’t tell me that I need to stay on the [inaudible 40:07].”
Ant Middleton: No, no, but I’ve done that as well. When I’d go out and there are people like “Ant, you’re never going to be in a special forces.” No, the more people tell me that, the more I want to do it. But, it still took me eight, nine years to even get on Special Forces selection. It’s like we’re the media world that I’m in now sort of burst into the media world, sort of three and a half years ago with one series of SAS [inaudible 40:30–40:33] and don’t take that as a career, go back into security because once that show is done, you’ll be a one stop shop. And one thing that I absolutely hate is when people say to me, “Ant, make the most of it once it’s there. Strike while the iron is hot.” And I’m like, “I’m not striking anything. I’m not taking anything once it is there, because my fifteen year career in the military might very much see this new media career fifteen, twenty years. I’m not striking anything while it’s hot. I’m not taking anything once it’s there. I’m progressively going to work my way up and through to be the best in this world now. So, you still have to go through that process. If someone says, “I don’t care what you say.” I love that attitude. I don’t care what anyone else say, do you believe that? Yes, I believe that. Well, guess what? You go and do that. Because if you believe it I guarantee you will probably get knocked down again and again and again but you’ll believe, you’ll just learn something form it each time, learn something form it each time, learn, learn, learn, learn and then boom you’ll hit it.
Jan Gerber: I mean you must have had that belief when you went through your training.
Ant Middleton: I still have that belief now. People are starting to believe in me because I’m progressing and then all of a sudden it’s just like… Listen, you believe in me three years ago. So, you know, it’s a lie. And again, it’s what I say about people holding themselves accountable. Knowing yourself better than anyone else is so liberating because it might be a vast dream that’s way out there but as long as you believe in it, you keep going for that. Even if you don’t reach that dream, I guarantee you, you’ll learn something and then another avenue might open up. And you go, “Well, that’s no longer my dream there, actually this is much more realistic one for the moment and you go off there and you might stay there for five, six years and then you might eventually reach a dream but believing in what you did. There’s so many vast opportunities and there is so many different corridors and doors that you need to open and as long as you believe, you will achieve and I know it sounds cliché believe to achieve but, it’s never a truer sort of expression that comes to the forefront when I think of believing and achieving because that’s exactly what I do.
Jan Gerber: Probably twenty years ago when you started your military career, you wouldn’t have thought where you are twenty years later.
Ant Middleton: Never in a million years. Even 13 years later when I first joined the military, and people would see us and hear about the SAS and the SPS and the Special forces and you’d be like a rabbit and hiding and you’d never even dreamed about getting on the selection, let alone being in the organization. It’s just like “Psh, don’t even go there.” And then you go, “Oh, actually, I’m quite good at this. Oh well, actually, this person tried and I think I can do that.” Again, it’s just building up that self-belief in yourself. But everything starts with you.
Jan Gerber: Do you remember what your initial dream was when you started with your military career. As you know that, you don’t go in with the aim that you will go to pre-selection and actual professional career.
Ant Middleton: I was just plodding through life. I still plod through life now. I don’t set myself goals because something might come up. I’m an opportunist and opportunity might come up and that goal is.. I’m off this direction here. So I don’t do that. I very much live in the now. So I plod along now, I plod along, I plod along then I realize what I am capable of. I realize what I’ve learned and I realize where I am. And I take a step back, have a good look around and go, “All right, you know what, I’m going to tackle that.” So I’m very much in the now person. I don’t think about next week, for example. I have structure for next week in my plan but I’m very much a now person. I put everything into the now. Because you don’t know what you’re going to get out of it. Now I have this interview and I might get another opportunity. It’s so bizarre how the world works and if you don’t live in the now and you’re always thinking about the future, or you live in the past, but then again, you don’t live in the real world.
Jan Gerber: There is a concept called mindfulness and being in the moment and in mental health, and particular mental health treatments for people who do seek professional help if they suffer from addiction or depression and so on. Being in the moments, is actually a very important message for somebody like that and learning the tools to do so. It can be meditation or anything if you can’t naturally, hold that state for long because the future often holds a lot of uncertainties, anxieties. The past holds a lot of resentment and trauma and being in the moment can be a very, very powerful tool for again resilience and eventually happiness. So that’s something you seem to have inadvertently mastered overtime because you have to be in the moment.
Ant Middleton: Yeah, I think so. And it’s not something that has been taught I think it’s just, I suppose it might come back from my military days where every time I went onto a mission I never knew if I was going to come back or not. So I had to live in that moment. I had to be like right, am I going to live or am I going to die? There’s not really much more that I can conjure up here. It’s like living it, put 100% of everything into this situation because if you have 1% distraction, it could cost you your life. So I suppose that’s where it comes from.
Jan Gerber: So that’s one positive take away from the military career. Brilliant.
Ant Middleton: Yeah
Jan Gerber: Let’s briefly talk about your childhood again. From your book and some of the stories you’ve told publicly, it wasn’t an easy childhood. Your father passed away when you were five years old and after that, unexpectedly, your mother very quickly found another partner. You moved to a different country. Just looking at it from the outside without knowing the different people in that story and the inner you, that looks like a recipe for a troubled childhood, teenage-hood and adulthood. You could have easily become one of those statistics of violent drunk struggling with finding a job. How did you beat these odds? Was there a defining moment for you?
Ant Middleton: I suppose when I look back on my childhood, when I reflect on what happened, I actually take positive from it. Now a lot of people say I believe that there is a positive to take from every negative and the positive was that at the age of five when my father passed away and the new man came into our lives within a couple of weeks and then within a couple of months we’re completely moved to a different country. I remember just the magnitude of the situation, I was like, “What the hell is going on?” To the point where it was so vast and so big that I couldn’t comprehend it. So what I decided to do is not understand or try and understand why I couldn’t especially at five years old. And I can remember just thinking, “Alright.” And I almost let it all go. I remember just thinking, “All right. Don’t think about it just let it all go.” And I can remember it almost feeling like a release, the world being taken off my shoulders. And I thought to myself, “Understand what you can understand.” I didn’t realize this back then, it’s only because I can reflect on it now. And the thing that I could understand was myself. I could understand what I was doing. I could understand my emotions, I could understand what I needed to do get on. I could understand. So, from a young age of five and six, I started self-reflecting at that age. So a lot of people will say, “Ant, how come you’re so in tuned with yourself? How comes you’re so in touch with yourself? How comes you’re so connected with yourself?” I’m like, “Because I started self-reflecting.”
Jan Gerber: So that was your way to cope with the situation?
Ant Middleton: At the age of five and six. And when I look back at it I wish to think I was quite selfish child. I always think, “Alright, just do what you want to do, think how you want to think.” Quite a stubborn child about that. I always wanted to be self-sufficient standing on my own two feet. That’s only because I could understand that. I could understand what is understandable rather than trying to comprehend what either wasn’t real which was the past. It doesn’t exist. It’s gone so you can’t possibly take anything from the past. You can’t reverse time, you can’t go back there. And again, I suppose living in that moment, it was those two things when I look back on it, I say to myself, “Wow.” When I say to people to self-reflect now at the age of seventeen, eighteen which I try and tell them, “Think about yourself, don’t think about other people, don’t think about other situations, define yourself how you feel. Let your emotions, what you’re feeling take control of him.” I even say it to middle aged people even to older people. I’ve had older people come up to me and go, “Andy, you’ve shown me that it is not too late to self-reflect and to change your mind set and these are people that are in their sixties and seventies. And I’m just like when I think about it. “Wow, you know that’s such an advantage in life or such a step ahead. You know from the age of five and six I’ve had to. That is why I am who I am today and that’s why I think and why I reflect and why I’m connected with myself is because ultimately, I’ve been doing it for all these years.
Jan Gerber: So that’s actually adverse time those experiences in your childhood let to the need for you to reflect and that was your coping mechanism and luckily it was a positive coping mechanism that could help you build resilience and see you through life rather than just acting out in different ways.
Ant Middleton: Yeah, but when I did act out in different ways as well, I always think to myself why am I acting out in this way? And why would I come back from a night club full of blood? Why was I fighting, right? Well, because I’m angry. Why are you angry? Because, what’s the trigger? That’s the trigger, but what can I do about it? Talk about it? Absolutely. Try and dig and find out about it? No, because that happened 30 odd years ago or whatever it was 20 odd years ago you know, that stage. No, you can’t cut that out, you’re right. What could you talk about? What can you find out about it? Did it make you feel better? Yes, it does. Well, actually maybe I need to drop into conversation every now and then or maybe I need to know visit my dad’s grave a little bit more. Maybe you know, it’s these little things but they ultimately, I’m a strong believer in and I’m a strong believer in that you know, it’s finding that trigger, you know, or finding that moment you know. And then my moments will blur into one, you’re not going to remembered, you know, if I was there, if I was taking this sort of ownership for myself, my young self-reflecting, I can remember, you know, taking, not letting people define me in the military, you know.
There’s all these stepping stones but there’s no set moment really that I can go back to but I just reflect and going, “ Ah, that’s that trigger.” Because it could be different emotional breakdowns for different moments, different triggers. So everything just isn’t set on my father passing away. You know that emotion was, I’ve got forget that, I’ve dealt with that. Okay, this is the different right, you know, so that’s what you’ve got to remember as well. And like I say to you, you know, only we, only we know that really if we unload and dig down into it, so much. But if you do that along the way in your life, if you naturally do that along the way rather than let it build up, build up, build up, build up, then having to go like a whoosh like a gingerset set and go right, where do we start here? You know, as long as you got what’s in the mind, is that thing, that’s that one done, little one, you might feel it, you know, and that’s why I talk about, you know ownership and you know, accountability and go and you know what, yeah. And like you said, it’s hard going, there’s something here. There’s a problem here or there’s a weakness here, like a lot of us men do or you know, but it’s ultimately, you know, it’s acknowledging it when there’s a needle and as it might be a little like [Inaudible 53:41] I need to deal with that.
Jan Gerber: I mean you quite rightly put it, the term trigger because there’s always something underlying whilst we do have certain emotions and I’m talking about again adverse emotions. It is also a trigger why people, you know, take the bottle down off the shelf or why they lash out at someone and that trigger is somewhere rooted in our past and in the past trauma or experience. So it’s either about identifying it and say okay I make peace with it, and I know how to deal with it. Or when it gets much more deeper, okay, let’s me, now we need to dig it out and process it, so that it doesn’t haunt you anymore. And in your book you also described that you had a bully in your school who had his focus set on you and you describe the moment where your stepfather told you, you don’t come home before you haven’t dealt with him or actually literally I told you and before I haven’t punched him, how was that experience petrifying for you?
Ant Middleton: Petrifying. I was I couldn’t concentrate on anything else that day at school. I was scared. I was lonely but I needed to do it because otherwise I wouldn’t dare walk through the door and as something that is really really forced upon me to the extent where you know, if I had the easy option and I would have taken it all day long. But it’s something that sticks with me as well as I just think to myself, you know, do I take a positive from it? Yes, because I never got bullied again after that. So people will say well violence isn’t the option, well it was there. Did it work? Yes, it did. And people don’t like to hear that. No, I’m not saying that that is the only way to go but it’s solved that problem.
Jan Gerber: Did it help you build confidence that time?
Ant Middleton: No, no no. It didn’t help me build confidence. It didn’t change me in any way apart from that I didn’t get bullied. But I didn’t like the experience. I’m not a violent person. I’m not you know, I was always a quiet boy, you know again, you know. Again, you know I’d be playing off in the woods by myself. I’ve always loved my own company. I wasn’t a loner but always take myself out of it, you know. So you can imagine to be in that situation, in the canteen where everyone’s, that was just my worst nightmare. But it happened and yes, you know with my son nowadays, I tell him to you know, I always tell him to walk away. I’ll be like : Son, if you’re getting bullied or I say be the bigger person and walk away and you know, because people take advantage of you in life. Whether you like it or not people live in this little bubble where “ go tell the teacher,” what world do you live in you know? There is this maturity about youngsters that we should, do walk away. If you’d told me that 10 years ago, if you had said, it takes a bigger man to walk away, good luck with that. But that you’re absolutely, but because of the experiences that I’ve been through and come learning, I’m growing.
Jan Gerber: There’s this saying, “battle avoided is a battle won,” or fight avoided is a fight won.
Ant Middleton: what about if the sword keeps poking you in the back.
Jan Gerber: Not exactly, but then it’s not avoided.
Ant Middleton: Exactly.
Jan Gerber: That being the bigger person just walking away diffuses the situation.
Ant Middleton: Absolutely.
Jan Gerber: Which is also what you were trying to do before you landed in prison sentence.
Ant Middleton: It was. it was indeed.
Jan Gerber: But with that advice and I recall that very vividly as well from my martial arts teacher when I was a teenager, every time we were learning self-defense, you know, somebody would attack us with a knife before, we would start in doing the exercises. He asked, the instructor asked everyone. What do you do when somebody pulls a knife on you? And we all together have to answer, “run.”
Ant Middleton: Yeah.
Jan Gerber: That’s really ingrained. Just you know, walk away, run away, and don’t put yourself in such a situation.
Ant Middleton: Of course. I would do that. If someone pulled a knife on me, I’ll be gone.
Jan Gerber: Yep.
Ant Middleton: If they chase me, that’s a different story. But of course, of course.
Jan Gerber: Right and then it’s easy to translate that into less threatening situation to say oh, you know, I’m going to avoid that comfortable, uncomfortable situation, but then so from your story a takeaway is really you need to just make sensible judgments every time. You cannot benefit from embracing this challenge or do I need to walk away from this because it’s just doesn’t make sense. It’s too dangerous.
Ant Middleton: And it’s also not putting yourself in those situations. It’s reading the situation beforehand. I’m all about prevention before cure. You know if I walk into, let’s say a bar or pub, for example, and I look in the corner and there’s a [inaudible 59:05] people, who had too much to drink. I’m walking straight back out there. I wouldn’t have done that years ago. And again, you know, you won’t find me in taxi cues late at night. You won’t find me put myself in these situation. So I’m almost you know eliminating the problem before even presents itself. And that’s what I think, you know, a lot of people need to do as well. Is you know, and we know, we have this gut feeling, we have this is you know, these spider senses that go [mouth clicks].
Jan Gerber: It’s not hiding or running away.
Ant Middleton: No, it’s not. It’s just being smart. It’s going, “do I need to put myself in the situation?” No, therefore don’t do it.
Jan Gerber: Right. Nothing good can come of it.
Ant Middleton: Exactly. Yeah.
Jan Gerber: In your book you often talk about your demons and how you make friends with your demons, you can leverage them to your advantage. But you’re never quite going to detail what those demons are. Would you share a bit?
Ant Middleton: Yeah, of course, you know your demons when you look at you know for me, punching that bully from a young age. That was me exercising my demons, knowing that it’s there. Growing up, you know, being confused about my father, drinking, violence, you know, knowing that you can be violent, knowing that you know that demon is there and if it gets hold of you, then you can spiral out of control and that’s very much in the military, you know. Pressing that trigger, you know, you know that you can do it. You know that ultimately that is the demon exercising himself right within you, you know. You do what needs to be done but you never let that control you. And ultimately when I think about it, you know from a young age when I punched that bully I didn’t want to continue punching him up, you know, but I exercise the demon but I kept him, you know close. I didn’t let him run wild. But when I look at the violence situations that I’ve been in, you know, when sort of my mid-career, now my demons got the better of me.
Now I’ve drinking and fighting and you know went through a stage of couple of years of doing that, you know. That’s why I talk about, you know to getting a grip of them and ultimately, you know, going back to being Afghanistan and pulling that trigger. I had to exercise my demons but not being that bully with a weapon. You know, it could’ve been quite easy for me and I understand how people you know, we’re like, we’re like animals, you know, when you press that trigger for the first time we like a dog with a blood lust. It’s very hard to control that not to go, you know to go right kill kill kill, you know and do what do what needs to be done. And you have to control that, you have to harness it to get the job done. And your demons can be something as little as temptation, you know, something as little as you know, maybe doing a physical activity and you having to exercise the aggressiveness within you to get over that last hurdle, to get over that last hill, to you know to get over that last obstacle, whatever it may be and it’s just about not letting that control you but ultimately acknowledging that it’s there.
Now, I’m sure sometimes everyone you know that you want to kick the ball or you want to go off, want to you know, but you want control of that, you make it work for you and when it’s time to let it out, you can actually work in your advantage. It’s like for me, you know doing the job that I’ve done in the military, you know saving life but also taking life is you know, I had to exercise that demon every time I press that trigger. It’s like a case, I don’t want to do this, you know, but if I don’t, I’m going to die or my powers are going to die. So therefore I need to exercise that. However, if I do that then I start going work mode, you’re going to get it, you’re going to, then you can be find yourself in a very very sort of vulnerable situation and especially when it’s fueled with alcohol and drugs. It’s what I say to people, you know, we all have demons there, but once it’s clouded with alcohol and drugs, those demons are going to take charge.
First of all, cut out the alcohol don’t use that as an excuse, take away that excuse. Cut out the drugs don’t use that as an excuse. Don’t make that, don’t give that demon that fuel to take over who you are. And when people do, you know, get so far into drugs and I’m just like, I feel you know, what I’m doing, it’s like, you know you need to, this is where I talk about, you know, taking charge yourself, you know, that’s not doing you any good. I went through two years of it, so I know. I’ve learned the hard way. So when once I cut that out my life and I cut that out my life was like “actually wow, I’m a different person now,”
So exercising your demons is just acknowledging that we all have them. We all have demons and they will come out and you will know when they come out. And just about going, do I need it here? No don’t even need to pop his head up. But you might find yourself in a situation where you, where your friends, you did go actually I need this little bit of a, this little bit of you know aggression or I need this little bit of push or and you know, I need to be someone else to get this job done. So it’s….
Jan Gerber: It’s about learning to harness them at the right time.
Ant Middleton: Yes, harnesses them at the right time but also allowing them to exercise as well. You can’t lock them away because the moment you lock them away, again this little build up, you know build up, build u, build up, they want to get out, they want to get out. They want to get out then all the sudden boom! You do something and you’re just like wow, you know from 40 nights too late. That moment of madness can change your life.
Jan Gerber: What was the hardest moment for you emotionally in your life that’s far?
Ant Middleton: Part is time for me was being in prison, actually. When I left the military, six months later, I found myself in prison. And just that emotional shame of being in a, being locked up and such a shameful experience because you know, I was spending time away from the family. I was a burden, I wasn’t putting food on the table. I wasn’t keeping a roof over their head. I wasn’t bringing any income, you know, this whole sense of responsibility that I’ve so proudly stand up to and I’ll make sure that that’s everything’s done before I do anything else. I was a burden to everyone, you know, and there was such a shame for the experience that you know, emotionally, you know, it was hard to stoop down to those levels of being a burden and not standing up to my responsibilities or not being able to. But it changed my life, it changed the way I act now. It change my mindset. So the positive from it is probably the best thing that probably happened to me at that stage because if I’ve gotten away with that, what would I have done next? I would have felt invincible and I would have probably done something even worse and spend a lot more time away from home. So there’s every positive from a negative.
Jan Gerber: And you also mention how it immensely helped you to have the structure of the, of the military environment. Again in prison you were given a structure to get you back into a, it’s a controlled, light controlled environment. In mental health structure something that also often is it comes up as an important concept or idea and that people who do not have structure in the life, even self-imposed like I get up at this time, no matter what and then I exercise and then I eat and then I read a book. There’s a lot of people now, especially these days who have the luxury of spending the day at will. Or again, we talked about retirement earlier on. That structure how do you make it work for yourself now? You don’t have to be in a certain place, at a certain time. In theory, you can you can sleep in if you’d like.
Ant Middleton: Yeah, I think you know to start that structure off, you stop playing the victim. Are we living in this blame culture, this victim culture where everyone’s owes are something that you know, we should be giving the structure. It’s down to us to build that structure. I can remember being in prison almost going bankrupt on the complete bones of my ass, on my back and I felt liberated. So I thought of, there’s only one way for me to go here, only one way for me to go. I didn’t have no stress. I didn’t have that, I just acknowledge the situation for what it was. So I talked about acknowledgement, once you acknowledge you can process and you can execute what needs to be done. Remember thinking I can only build from here. I’m absolute, I’ve got nothing. I haven’t got penny in my pocket, just about it. I am going to have to close the company down. No, we’ve just got to rebuild from the start. I can remember just thinking well I feel actually liberated. I feel refreshed. And I built that structure from nothing. It’s almost as if you know, I’ve had a bit of land someone you know, or guess what I’m going to go and find some bricks. I’m going to you know structure this the way I want to now. Now I structured my life in a completely different way. So it’s about you know, accountability is about ownership and I always revert back to that because it’s so, so important, you know. Don’t think people are going to do it for you because they’re not. If you want to structure of your own life, the way that you want it to be structured. I used to talk about having the liberty of sleeping. I don’t, there’s no liberties that I have. I work for my liberties. I structure my liberties in a way where you don’t have to put that brick on that wall today because I’ve already built this foundation around me. I can probably you know have a day off and put that brick on the next day.
Jan Gerber: yeah.
Ant Middleton: So, you know, again that’s, it’s having that structure in your life and building it yourself. And when you build it yourself, you know when you build those foundations yourself you will actually, when it comes crumbling down, you know exactly where it’s gone wrong or what you need to do to step back up to the game or sit back up to the plate and get things done. The moment people start doing it for you and then they’re going to be doing it for you your whole life, you know. So it’s about, you know, use the people around you, don’t get me wrong, use the people around you. Use what you’ve got around you. Build your own structure, makes your own structure, make it yours. Make it your blueprint make it your, because then no one can take it from you. And you can always, honestly you can always revert back to it and build on it. Once those towers or bricks come for tumbling down, boom! But guess what? I’ve got still got these foundations, these structures that I have built. I know exactly where I’m going. I know exactly where I need to rebuild, let’s do it.
Jan Gerber: That reminds me of what the friend told me the other day is, “success is only loaned, it’s like you’re paying interest every day.” So when you stop putting that [Inaudible 70:33] in every day,
Jan Gerber: It’s like that. It’s like, you know, what is success. I don’t believe in that word, success. I don’t like that word success. Success is in the eye of the beholder. For me success is understanding who you are and building on being happy and building on the best version of yourself. There’s nothing out there, is what defines success for me. Success is within and if you know, if you’re happy and you understand yourself and you know who you, it’s hard to believe that in its own right is success and everything will fit into place from there.
Jan Gerber: I think that’s a very powerful message because you say correctly. That success lies in the eye of the beholder.
Ant Middleton: Yeah.
Jan Gerber: And the society we live in, you know, has a very peculiar definitions of what success and what’s not.
Ant Middleton: Yeah.
Jan Gerber: And I think a lot of people growing up in this environment they get this external pressure what they need to achieve in order to be considered successful.
But even when they get there, they’re not fulfilled or happy. So I think it’s very powerful message about knowing yourself and your own purpose and being in peace and with you.
Ant Middleton: And once you do know your inner purpose, you know, my inner purpose is to build on being the best version of myself. This is something that the purpose lies within and I will never fully fulfill that purpose or never get to that answer because I’ll be doing it, hopefully until the day I die. That’s what’s going to give me purpose. I’ll be on that journey, you know, pushing, pushing, pushing, trying to find out who I am, but ultimately the answer, I’ll get closer and closer to it, but I never answer that question. That is my purpose in life. And I find that fascinating. I find it fascinating that I can do that and there’s nothing out there materialistic that’s going to give me purpose is know, you know, it’s just building the best version of myself so I can pass it on to my children. I can pass it on to future generations. I can pass it on to adults, passed on to whoever. And they can pass it on to us. If we all had that, can you can imagine if me giving you a little bundle of positivity, little bundle of joy and we all had that, then what greater purpose than that than lifting each other up and and you know and helping each other out but sadly that’s not the real world that we live in. It’s you know, a lot of things are materialistic and now external but for me, you know, if you look within and you can’t go far wrong.
Jan Gerber: I think a lot of people who do struggle with purpose, who do struggle with structure, who do prefer to stay in a comfortable bubble, they can really benefit from your experience and your message. And then there are those people who are ill, who are either emotionally damaged through an experience or they suffer from a mental illness and I like to compare that to somebody in order to run, in order to go through military training for instance, you need to have your limbs.
Ant Middleton: Yeah.
Jan Gerber: If you lose the limp, you can’t run anymore and with mental health, it’s a very similar, you can use that analogy. If somebody has a mental illness, or is so traumatized, that they’re not in a position to just get stuck together to get through that, you know, use that resilience. And I think that’s the people that we shouldn’t we forget.
Ant Middleton: Absolutely not.
Jan Gerber: And who need that empathy and that help to get them to a point where they can walk again and then…
Ant Middleton: Definitely and you know, there is so many of us out there that want to help and there’s so many of us that need help. And if you are, yeah and if you are in a situation, absolutely, you know, it’s just like I said, it’s just like rebuilding, you know from your foundations. It’s just but ultimately, you know, again, you’ll only accept help if you want help, you know. Again, it’s all does start with the individual and I think we’ve all with anything like this, the main message that I can deliver from this is just be honest with yourself. If you’re honest with yourself, you can’t go too wrong. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ve got to know what I need help. If you’re honest with yourself and go you know, what I’m being pointed down this corridor, say that it is this first footstep into this door a true first step and if it’s not, don’t take it, you know. But if you go but then again, there is that reverse effect of, “well actually need to take this first step. Let’s do it.” And you know on both sides, there’s help, there is help on both sides. But be honest with yourself and that it would just make things so much more transparent and the process will be a lot easier.
Jan Gerber: You know i read out of your story and your comments now, is that self-reflection, be honest to yourself is just as much about resilience than being strong and not giving up and you know, pulling something through. Because that often that the weakest point is that the one we don’t even know about because we don’t admit, we don’t admit that we have a problem that we need to address, either with external help or on their own. And especially mental health that’s tricky. And somebody who’s very depressed doesn’t have the energy, doesn’t have the motivation, isn’t honest with themselves that actually, I want to get out of this. Somebody who suffer from addiction, often the very same thing. It’s like no it’s not that bad or I can deal with this.
Ant Middleton: Acknowledgement.
Jan Gerber: Exactly, so that’s reflection. I think actually that’s very powerful message from, it’s part of resilience.
Ant Middleton: Now, of course, it is you know, it’s haven’t been sort of on both sides of it, you know, I understand both sides and you know, it’s traumatic when you do see so many people taking their lives. No just start off talking, just like whatever’s on your mind, just let it out and that one word or that one sentence might save your life.
Jan Gerber: Print that. I have a last question for you.
Ant Middleton: Please.
Jan Gerber: Talking about purpose and meaning in life. What’s in for you in the future? What are your plans? What’s your purpose now? Where do you see your journey going from here?
Ant Middleton: I’m very much enjoying my new career. I love delivering a message, you know. I found that this career has very much like my last career. It isn’t a privilege, it’s very much a responsibility, you know. I inspire a lot of people as much as you know people inspire me. So I’ve got the sense of responsibility to uphold for especially for our future generation about mindset, about resilience about you know, self-discovery shall we say. So I’m very much doing stuff for people, whether its day camps. I’m doing new day camps, Mind over Muscle day camps, which is physical and psychological. There’s a mindset coaching and mentoring within the physical exercise. So, that’s very interesting when it’s very popular. More touring around the UK. I’ve got a UK tour in September, talking about fear, failure, resilience and you know talking about my military background and about Mount Everest as well. I recently scaled. So it’s just getting that message out there. Now everything that I do has a subliminal message behind it. I don’t just do things for the sake of doing things, you know, because it’s just, that’s just mundane and there’s got to be a purpose behind it. It’s got to stay true to me and authentic to me and it’s got to deliver a powerful message. And I just want to share my experience, you know, I say to people, I’m not an intellect or I’m not bookworm. I’m just someone that comes from the University of Life, you know, and I just want to share my experiences. But a lot more TV, a lot more tours and like I said, you know, you haven’t seen the last of me.
Jan Gerber: Brilliant. I mean a being in the public spotlight and as you say more TV, more appearances, more people know your name, know your face, is that, how is that experience for you? Is it stressful or a neutral about that part of it? You know people possibly recognizing you also, you know, there’s always the risk that a comment to make, you know, can be picked up by tabloids and in different contexts and all that. That’s all the risk factors that come with being a celebrity.
Ant Middleton: That’s acknowledging that that is parts and parcel of it. Again going to that acknowledgement say this is part and parcel of it. People stopping me in the street themself. That’s all positive, you know people want to hear about my story. If I can make someone’s day, month or year, then why wouldn’t I stop and be polite? Things being taken out of context, you know being taken out of concept, it’s, that’s part and parcel of its acknowledging that sparked buzzer. I’m not going to change who I am or change how I think or certainly be silenced through, from what i believe is right. And again, I do not go out to offend, you know, my actions aren’t malicious. You know, I just generally believe I have a strong starts in my beliefs and they’ve worked for me and if I can help tens of thousands of people that I’m helping, then I’ll continue being authentic real to myself and just accepting that the situation is the situation and you’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, right? So, that’s life.
Jan Gerber: Stay true to yourself.
Ant Middleton: Stay true to myself.
Jan Gerber: Again. Thank you so much for this interesting conversation.
Ant Middleton: thank you.
Jan Gerber: It’s a real pleasure having you.
Ant Middleton: Thank you very much.
Jan Gerber: Thank you.
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