Ollie Ollerton: Get Battle Ready for 2021
An interview with Ollie Ollerton about his burgeoning empire of businesses and books, and why we must stay flexible and adopt the right mindset to succeed in the post-lockdown world...
Ollie Ollerton is in fine fettle, and that’s no accident. The ex-Special Forces soldier is on the other end of a Zoom call in the filming space of his ever-expanding HQ at an undisclosed location in the UK (admittedly, only undisclosed because we didn’t ask). Yes for Ollie, despite leaving SAS:Who Dares Wins (in this country at least – the version that’s been on in Australia has been a big hit and features Ollie with the usual staff), business is booming. He’s a best-selling author – his latest book, Scar Tissue, is a searing novel based upon his SF experiences – and the owner of several growing businesses. The business we’re linked up to talk about is Battle Ready 360, which he co-founded with Jason Fox and is about bringing military expertise to mind and body training – it consists of an app for daily fitness sessions and advice tailored to your psychological profile, along with equipment to aid your progression. The gents were running free live sessions during the second lockdown and are planning bigger things for next year…we found out more about this and the book Battle Ready which started it all, and found Ollie to be in typically inspirational form:
How have the free live sessions been going and why did you put them on?
Every business we’ve had is about helping people. I know, and Foxy knows, about the power of doing exercise and how that helps your mental state. A lot of people underestimate that. It’s just about getting people moving, getting the blood flowing to set them up for the rest of the day. We’re trying to apply a structure into people’s days and certainly exercise is something you need to do anyway – apparently it helps you live a longer and happier life…
Do people crave a bit of discipline and direction when there’s so much worry about?
I think definitely in the first lockdown a lot of people wanted that. Hopefully in phase two people have adjusted and put a structure in their day.
You’re born in this world and you are indoctrinated into this authoritarian lifestyle, there’s always someone telling you what to do. You go through school, then college or university, then a job, always with someone telling you what to do – when all of a sudden that disappears and there’s no one telling you what to do… It’s like leaving the military: people are looking from side to side waiting for the voice telling you what to do. It shows the importance of structure in your day.
My days start at 5am every day apart from the weekends. It’s really important for me to have a disciplined process. I always say the most important project is you. Forget your work, forget your family, forget the people you love the most. Some people find that hard to accept, but the most important project is you. If you get yourself right, the foundations of who you are right, and you come from a good robust mental state, then you’re a better person not only for yourself but for everyone around you.
Do you think there’s been a lasting fundamental change this year in the way people live and work?
I do see a massive change. On the positive side I think this lockdown has helped a lot of people focus on who they are. I think anyone that is going to try and go back to the working environments we had before are swimming upstream in a fast flowing river. Traumatic events on an individual scale or a global scale can create a lot of frustration – a lot of wasted time is spent trying to recreate the person or the environment that existed before the event. It’s not there anymore. You have to be dynamic, you have to be a chameleon and fit into your environment. People should stop swimming upstream, turn around and go with the flow.
But I’ve never known such an unpredictable time. And in these moments you’ve really got to do what we call ‘one metre square’. This comes from a military ethos: when all around you is falling apart, pull it back to one metre square and focus on your immediate environment and those around you. If you try and deal with too much when its uncontrolled and unpredictable it’s going to be overwhelming and you’ll lose motivation, and very quickly fall into a flat spin of despair.
We live in world all about digital distractions now – has it never been more important to own your own space?
Yeah and the way I deal with things is not Covid-specific its how we should be dealing with things anyway. I locked myself into isolation in 2014, which was the basis of my book Battle Ready. In 2014, I could have dwelled on the fact that I had no money, had no job, had no nothing – but I focused on the fact I had no commitments distracting me from focusing on myself. And that allowed me the freedom to really work on some disciplined routines on my mindset, body and nutrition. Once I started to invest in myself the return on that investment was absolutely phenomenal. I didn’t recognise the person I was when I left that house two or three months later. That’s why I wanted to document it in Battle Ready and show people a process they can do which can be very personal to each individual. I did the same process this morning when I got up at 5am. I still do it to this day.
We hit rock bottom then we rise up like a phoenix from the flames, it’s this emotional roller coaster. I learned through the hardship of going up and down that you need a continuous improvement model. Investing in yourself to make sure you have balance.
We all seem to have the expectation of reaching a point where everything is sorted out and you’re happy ever after, but that’s not really how it work is it?
No take for example – you’re a fitness fad’s best customer if you think that. It’s the same with anything. I know now that if I don’t do my fitness, if I don’t do my meditation, if I don’t do the processes I do every day, that really affects me. But doing it consistently every day doesn’t mean I’m superman, its just keeps me at a level of balance, it keeps me in a good place. I really look forward to weekends when I don’t get up in the mornings, but I like getting back into it on a Monday, up at 5 to do my routines, then be in the office at 8. Then regardless what has happened that day, even if I have the worst day ever, it’s still been a success.
Tell us about the flexible mindset – from an outsider perspective, looking at Special Forces guys, it looks like it’s all about power and control, and knowing what to do all the time, but is it actually more about staying adaptable?
It does make me laugh the perceptions of Special Forces soldiers and the reality. The reality is a bunch of maverick rogues who will do anything to get the job done. Going into a war zone, they don’t have to phone in to a higher command to take the shot – they just have to get the job done and they’ll do anything to get that job done. So really that takes a massive amount of flexibility. We have a saying: ‘no plan survives first contact.’ You can have all the plans in the world but as soon as the bullets go down everything changes. One thing that will never change, though, is your goal, your mission. That’s the one thing that you have to achieve. How you get to it though is anyone’s game. And you can’t predict that, it’s ever changing. I’ve known people who have gone in on a mission to get a hostage and have ended up delivering a baby!
You can’t predict the journey and that’s an analogy for life. But you have your goal – and that got me through selection, is what got me through everything. I always planted the goal there. And the goal allows me to focus on the outcome of where I want to be and not get bogged down in the circumstances; because if we allow that to happen we become a victim of the circumstances. We’ve got nothing more powerful pulling us forward. A lot of people think you either have goals or they don’t but I can tell you every person on this planet has a goal. Whether they like it or not. Our subconscious is a goal getting machine that will stop at nothing until it gets what your dominant thoughts focus on.
What’s going on in your head is your outside world. If you want to know what you’re thinking about, look around you. Mine was mayhem for a long time, just constant crisis. Girlfriends, finances, absolutely everything was in crisis, because that’s what was going on in here. That was a visual interpretation of the way I was thinking and it wasn’t until I adjusted this that my outside world then reflected the balance in here.
That for me has been a turnaround in seven years. I don’t want to big myself but seven years ago I couldn’t string a sentence together now you can’t shut me up. I’ve got 3 companies, 3 books out, I’m doing absolutely everything – stuff I never dreamed I’d be able to do. And that is though having that balance and clear mindset.
When I put myself in isolation I had this dream to set up a company but I just knew before I even went down a route to build a business, I had to build me first. And that’s why I think it’s so important for people to understand that the most important project is you. You have to make sure you have the root system to sustain the growth for the goals you want to achieve. If you try to attack a goal and you’re broken, it will just be a mess.
Is part of it about getting a good team around you as well?
I never realised how hard that was. I think I was spoilt in my previous career. Having such a phenomenal team around me. It’s been really hard work to get people you can trust. At the end of the day their motivation is different, their passion different. You have to understand that no two people are the same. A lot of time leaders, when they ask for something to be done, expect it at the same level of expertise that they would do it – bad leadership is someone who gets angry about that, and I used to be like that. But you have to look at a person’s character, their drive, and their passions, which may be very different. You have to start appreciating people for their strengths and weaknesses and start putting them into a role that’s suited to them – and it is hard work. It’s hard work getting the right team around you. And I think anyone going into business has to be exposed to that. It’s never a dream. You’ve got to have those hard knocks and get back on track to get a good team around you. But it’s so important that you do.
Tell us about Battle Ready 360…
Me and Foxy both own the company, and there’s 3 elements to it – mind, body and nutrition. It means a 360 degree approach to your mindset, to your health and happiness.
A lot of people only want to go to the gym because they want to look like someone else on Instagram. When being fit and healthy should be about creating that mind and body purpose. The problem is for humans we’re always chasing an image, the perfect marriage, the perfect job, the perfect car, we’re chasing the image and almost the feeling becomes a by product. That’s why when we do achieve these things we get there and go ‘this is a bit disappointing, I thought it’d be better than this.’ It was the same in Special Forces – I was in love with the image of being a soldier but when I got there it didn’t match who I was. I think it’s a big mistake we can make.
Battle Ready 360 is about getting your mind sorted and the rest will follow. A lot of fitness people say it’s all in the head, but that requires more depth. We’ve built into the app – and we’re a world first on this – a psychometric assessment which tells you what character you are and helps you prepare for the journey ahead. If you get this right then everything else flows.
Then we have the exercise videos on the app where you can work out with me and Foxy. And then we have the nutrition side. Nutrition is so important but people often take it for granted. A lot of people it’s about banging the gym every day but you can’t out-train a bad diet.
We are trying to create a community too, and that’s’ why we’e brought in the Battle Box. When we were serving soldiers we used to throw in an old ammunition box things like skipping ropes, resistance bands, a few bits and bobs so that wherever we went in the world we would have fitness kit. A lot of time we’d turn up at a place and have no kit but we always wanted to make sure we had a work out to be able to get prepared. The Battle Box simulates that – it’s a pop up gym in a box and that relates to all the things on the app.
After Christmas we’re building an online platform that’s like Peloton. From the studio here we’ll have scheduled sessions and people will be able to log in to a dedicated streaming service to work out with us. We’ll have athletes all over the UK doing strength and conditioning, mobility, meditation, and more, so you can look at your schedule and choose which ones you want to do that week.
Working out at home seems to be a big change that will last beyond this year…
We used to think we needed to go to the gym and you don’t. You can work out anywhere. With a gym, by the time you’ve got ready and walked there and done your workout, that’s a lot of time. And it gives you enough excuse to go: I haven’t got time.
I am also hoping a lot of people are swapping the gym for the outdoors. When it comes to mental health as well, one of the first things people suffering from mental health problems should do is get out into nature. Get away from your immediate environment. When people are suffering from depression, that to me is a message from your mind that something needs to change. If you carry on doing the same thing you will stay like that. You have to break out of the cycle that people get stuck in. And that is related to my first book, Break Point, which is about embracing short term discomfort for long term gain.
We haven’t seen SAS Australia over here, but how was that?
A great experience. I’m no longer involved in the UK one but it had done its service for me. TV is more of a hobby and it’s been a tool for the business, to get me exposure and give me a voice. Very much a support element to everything else going on.
Going out to Australia was like a breath of fresh air, though – it reinvigorated my passion to be involved in the programme. It was amazing out there because it was very much a collaboration between us and the production crew and also they were amazing bunch of candidates. When you have your first event in another country you get the pick of the crop! We all worked together, the team and the lads and they listened to us to make it work. There’s a balance, you have to make a show that appealing to the pubic but you also have to make it authentic. But if it was too authentic believe me it would be absolutely boring.
We no doubt have another tough year ahead, on the work and life front, what message do you have for people to help them get through it?
First of all you have to cut away things you can’t control, and concentrate on the things you can control. Focus on the things that are benefitting you. I think if it looks inevitable that your future career is doubtful you have to start making moves. You have to start doing something right way. The bottom line is we are all gifted amazing human beings and we can adapt to anything if we put our minds to it.
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