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Who We Are is Why We Win.

“You can’t do that”.

A phrase in my life I’ve come to get pretty sick of, first off, why? why can’t I do it? Who’s telling me I can’t? Who makes the rules?
Now we’ve all heard the phrase, I do what I want. And yes, yes you do.

I remember one of the first times I was told I can’t do something, it’s still striking in my mind. One of my old rugby “coaches”… less one of the actual coaches and more one of the many self proclaimed, told me I’d never be able to dance and play rugby, it made me soft. Only a few months later I was one of the only players in the squad to make county trials, and not long after I was captaining our side whilst doing ballet 4 times a week. Who was he to tell me what I can and can’t do?

Now I know, that’s a minor story in the grand scheme of things. I was told in College by Roisin Dunn, the vice principle at the time, that I’d never go anywhere in life, never be anything. Since then I’ve earned a spot on 3 GB times and am due to graduate with a BSc in Architecture from one of the most prestigious architecture schools in the country.. She’s since been fired, who’s winning that one?


I was told you couldn’t do architecture and play sport. Sure, I’m not set to get a first, but I’ve had two good jobs, had my work complimented by many people and it’s certainly no worse than the majority of the year.. And I’ve rowed for the university first VIII for two years, finished two ironman’s and barely missed a days training.

I cycled 240km into a headwind at almost 34kph. in my first season of cycling, on a road bike, stopping once briefly for water. I didn’t think that was possible! Until you try, how do you know that? You read it? Some chop on the internet told you? Riiiiight.


So why isn’t that possible?
It’s because it’s tough. Life is tough. And people want to tell you you can’t do it. They want to make excuses, so they themselves feel better. Give themselves the excuse of ‘it’s impossible’ therefore they’re missing out.


Season two and I’ve done a sub 10 ironman, sub 4 100 miles, broken a 23 year old club record, pb’d on numerous 10’s & 25’s, all on heavy legs. We decided what’s possible for ourselves.

Would Ironman be growing so fast if it was easy? No. But is it really that hard? When 50 year old guys get round at the best part of 100kg… really ask yourself, how demanding is that? We turned up to an ironman, 6 months into triathlon, and in 31 degree heat all went comfortably sub 14. Huub told us we’d never go sub 14, they bet £200 and some doughnuts against us, well why not?

I saw a man in Wales, with one arm and one leg, go sub 10 hours. At some point in his life, he’s probably been told he can’t do it. Probably numerous times, but look at him. Setting an inspirational example, why can’t you do it?

A 13 year old and an 80 year old have climbed everest. Yes. it’s £50,000. Yes, it’s technically one of the hardest things to do in the world. But I’ll repeat, a 13 year old has done. Come on now, you’re not telling me that 13 year old is in better physical condition than some of the people I know?

Probably not.


Lets move away from me, and away from the crazy. Lets look at some more real examples. Sam Courty, she started rowing at university. 3 years later she was sat in the GB women’s 8 racing the Huskies in Washington for the Windermere Cup. People would say that’s not possible… well it is, she did it.

UW mens crew, ‘who we are is why we win’. They don’t listen to anyone. They’re a university that races international crews for goodness sake, they’ll tell you what they can and can’t do. And you’ll sit and listen.

Bradley Wiggins, Olympic medal holder, Tour De France winner, he was told a million times he couldn’t do it. Did he listen? No. Did he care? No. There are literally thousands of examples I could bounce around.


You can’t do it.

Just mull that over for a second in your mind. Ask yourself why? Literally. Why?

Lets take a step back, a big step back. To about 100 years ago. Flying was impossible, reaching the moon was impossible. For goodness sake electricity was impossible once upon a time. But it’s there, we have it, we can’t get rid of it!


So why are you letting yourself be governed by people that are in no better a position to comment than yourself? Try new things, take up a new hobby, let your hobby become your job. Believe in yourself.

The older I get the more I’m beginning to believe the cliches. They’re thrown around by mums, minders, grandparents. You can be anything you want to be, follow your dreams.


I hate cliches.
They make me sick.

But it’s unfortunately true. There’s so much truth in it. Take a step back and look how far you’ve come in life, everything you’ve achieved, everywhere you’ve been, everyone you’ve influenced.

And back yourself.
You decided what you can and can’t do.

Who we are is why we win.
“You can do that”.

A Morning in Mossley 

I was quite anxious being invited to give a talk in Mossley school about growth mindset and the attitudes found in athletes as well as other people.

With no psychology qualifications, and only being a part of high level sport for 3 years, most of which was watching and training with far more developed athletes.. I’d hardly consider myself the perfect candidate.

None the less having rowed with people at all kinds of levels, been coached by some of the countries best coaches and ex athletes, I’ve been exposed to a great number of different approaches. Although the most successful all have one underlying feature. Even in the field of architecture and my degree the most talented people I have encountered share the outlook more commonly known as a growth mindset.

I entered the school armed with a press release for the paper, a short relatable PowerPoint for the children and a collection of medals and trophies I’ve gained over my short sporting career.

A growth mindset?

Well what exactly is a growth mindset and why is it suddenly becoming so popular?

The fundamental concept initiated by Carol Dweck of this mindset is the word yet. 

“you’re not there YET”.

I suppose you could call it an optimistic attitude.


Many people, children and adults alike, regularly experience failure. I personally experienced a big personal disappointment whilst racing Nice ironman. Other people can experience this by not attaining results for university, percentages for a sales job, children in class tests.

Now in this situation the pessimist  would be defeated. How could they ever do it? It’s not possible! The average athlete would settle, I can do better but that’ll do. The salesman will take his pay cheque a happy man, he didn’t need the bonus anyway.

But the one with the growth mindset won’t settle. They’re not unhappy, not defeated, but they acknowledge there’s room for improvement. An advanced version of themselves can manage this.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be the best of everyone, but the optimism to grow for the best possible personal gain.

And it can be hard when you’re down to pick yourself up. The children at Mossley referred to this as “the pit” but understood there is another side, where the grass is truly greener.

But as is said time and time again, there’s no substitute for hard work. A resilient character with a perseverance to give their best will find endless amounts of opportunities and doors open for them.

So I found myself presenting this idea in front of the junior section of Mossley school, 200 fresh faces staring back at me, reminding me of myself not too many years ago sat through a school assembly.

And I have to say I was thoroughly impressed by the reception and politeness of the children, and staff, in Mossley school.

Many of them had or will grasp the concept of hard work and reslience, knowing all they can do is their best. And that hard work can open endless opportunities for their future selves.

A set of children that should make the town proud and I look forward to seeing what this next generation of Congleton’s youngsters bring to the future.