Category Archives: life

Our Life’s Black Box

I like to read, sometimes I read novels but mostly I am drawn towards books about how to improve my thinking, coaching……life. I find it fascinating to look at how other people have developed over the years and seeing if there is anything I can adopt to try and add value to what I am doing.

My favourite book at the minute is by Matthew Syed.

The book is Black Box thinking. Very briefly, it looks at how industries and individuals can learn from mistakes, improve how they operate and ultimately improve performance.

black box

The application to my job are obvious and, the first time I read the book, that is all I applied it too.

However a different application occurred to me as I read through the opening chapters again.

In these chapters Matthew talks about the landing of US Airways flight 1549 (the one that landed on the Hudson river). Specifically he talks about how the Pilot, Chelsey Sullenberger handled the incident.

When crash investigators went to the planes ‘black box’ and listened to the recording of the incident they heard that Chelsey and his Co-Pilot never stopped communicating, they had an open line of communication through the whole incident.

This constant communication allowed the whole crew to function correctly and avoid any lose of life.

Everyone knows the footprints in the sand ‘poem’. Looking back at two sets of footprints as we walk through life with God but noticing that when we go through troubles there is only one set. assuming that God has abandoned us at those difficult times but being told the one set of footprints belong to God and that He carried us through.


These two stories got me thinking.

What if I was able to go back and listen to my ‘black box’?

What would I hear?

When times have been tough and challenging what has my reaction been? Has there been a constant, open, line of communication between me and God or have I just assumed that I have been abandoned just when I needed the most help?

I know that, sadly, historically I would have to confess its been the latter.


#TNDO (in everything I do)

til next time



The right book……

There are literally hundreds of self help books on the market today. Walking down the aisle in any book store and you will see titles that proclaim to help you achieve happiness, grow your wealth, unleash your inner spirit warrior and any number of other ‘be better’ promises.

They all have one thing in common – they promise to help you be the best version on you that you can be.

I have read my fair share of these books seeking to unleash my inner giant, learn the secrets of highly effective people, train my mind. They are all good books, very well written and, on some levels, very informative. I have no doubt that at some point I will read them again.

However, they all lack one vital ingredient to fulfil their stated goal – making you the very best you you can be.

Now I realise that this blog is, primarily, a swimming/coaching blog.

Really it’s about me and my journey to be the best swim coach I can be. So there is a link to what I’m about to say.

The truth is that all these books have their place, they all serve a purpose but if you are seeking the best version of yourself then your reading the wrong books. You only actually need one book.

The desire for more, the desire for fulfilment is in our very DNA. We are programmed to want to develop, to grow, to be better.

Man’s desire to explain everything, to search out the truth about our world and ourselves, to be the very best versions of ourselves is, in my opinion a twisting of the original reason for the DNA programming.

The more I think about it the more I am convinced that these desires stem from a need for more, a need to fill a hole in our very being.

Our desire to fill that ‘void’ has led to the publication of hundreds upon hundreds of self help books, self help courses, life coaches and everything that goes with that.

This emptiness that we, as a species, feel is (in my opinion) because there is a bigger picture, a better plan for our lives, a blueprint that we need to follow if we really want to be that best version of ourselves.

Where do we find this blueprint? In the one book that we should be reading. A book that predates all those other books we turn to for ‘the answer’

The Bible

The Bibles tells me that God has a plan for my life he wants to make me the best version on me, the version of me that he planned right from the start.

There are no payment plans, no courses to attend to reach the ‘next level’ there is only submission to him and trust in his plan for my life.


It takes courage to be a man

I’m 42, my daughter is one today. do I worry about my health a little more than I used to? yeah I do, I worry about getting sick and not being here for her, I think that’s probably normal but the biggest killer of men my age isn’t heart disease or cancer. 

The biggest killer of men my age in the UK is suicide. the statistics make pretty grim reading.

24.1 deaths per 100,000 for men aged 40 – 44 is suicide compared to 8.3 for women. there is obviously a problem that needs to be addressed somewhere.

In this last year I have reached a whole new understanding of what pressure is, I feel under pressure to provide a life for Harper and Louise, to find a balance between work and family, to continue to focus on my job when things get tough and to plan for the future.

Its a challenge and I understand, a little more, why men would feel like they have nowhere to turn to.

By this age we are supposed to have it all nailed down, our family life, our career, a mortgage, the future is planned really. (I don’t feel like I have any idea what my future holds if I’m honest)

Now, I’m not the most mentally robust person I know, I have suffered from depression, been on pills and to talking therapy (which lets be honest no one likes – I hate it). I have had my challenges and have no doubt that I will have more in the future. I am incredibly lucky to have a loving and supportive family around me and to have learnt, the hard way, that if I talk to them they wont judge me, in fact there is a better than good chance they will help me.

Growing up in a world where the male role models we saw on TV were action stars, tough uncompromising men who basically kicked ass every day, its easy to see why men feel like this is what we have to be like, that this is what real courage is.


not deterred by danger or pain; brave

But then yesterday I heard something the other day that resonated with me,

Courage is a heart word, the root of the word is cor – the Latin word for heart. the original meaning of the word courage is to speak ones mind by telling all one’s heart

Being courageous doesn’t mean bottling things up and dealing with stuff on our own. it means the exact opposite true courage is being open enough and brave enough to tell people when we are struggling, to admit when we need help and not be afraid to accept help when its offered.

Maybe if more men where brought up with role models who behaved this way we would start to see a reduction in the awful statistic above.






D is for…….

The next in my A-Z of coaching…..

d is for…..

Every child that joins a swimming club has a Dream. They want to win races, to get better and, ultimately, go to the Olympics.

Dreams  are aspiration desires. Dreams should be BIG, dreams that don’t scare you, dreams that don’t get you out of bed every single day are simply not big enough.

Those people who achieve their dreams are those who have the DRIVE to transform their dreams into goals.

The D in my A-Z is therefore Drive. 


To be driven is to be compelled to act in a particular way, especially one that may be considered difficult.

There is no doubt that sport if difficult. No ‘normal’ people would do it. Its a lot of early mornings and long weekends. Its dealing with injuries and disappointments. Its antisocial.

It takes special people to stick at sport for the long haul, to reach the very top.

It takes people with Drive

Personally the thing that drives me is the desire to prove that I know what I am doing smiley-face-flat

I consider myself to have been incredibly lucky as a coach, I have coaches some athletes who have been exceptional Irish swimmers but there is always that little doubt at the back of my head. The reality that those athletes would in all likelihood have achieved at least as much, if not more, elsewhere.

If my desire is to become as good as I can be, to be as close to world class as possible, then I believe I need to assist athletes to reach their fullest potential on a consistent basis. It is this drive that wakens me every morning at 5am, that makes the decision to say no to nights out an easy one.

It is my belief that no matter what area of life you have ambition in, without drive your dreams will remain just that.





Its that time of year again.

Time to forgo the beard i love so much and take a stand for something more important than my facial hair.

In a year when I think that maculinity and ‘being a man’ has taken some hits I worry that men will do what we generally do and not talk about what bothers us.

Suicide is the biggest killer of men my age in the UK. That is a shocking fact!

We need to break the stigma that we can feel around mens health issues and shine a light on the reality that men suffer too and that its ok to not be ok.

It is good to talk – its not just a handy hashtag.

In a time when it generally seems to be ok to bash men for being masculine in a way its not ok to bash any other group, men need to stand up and show the difference between masculinity and masogyny or chauvinism.

Men cry

Men get sick

Men have problems

Men need help

Men need to realise that they are men and ask for help

This year I became a father for the first time, a truly wonderful experience. An experience that got me thinking about my own mortality, I want to gros old to walk Harper down the aisle (in the unlikely event that she ever finds someone I deem good enough). I made a decision to be more proactive about my health.

Scariest thing? Phoning up to make a prostate exam appointment.

Second scariest thing? Going for it.

The truth however is, it was a blood test, not scary at all.

I dont have a huge circle of friends……not sure if there are even enough to form a rudimentary circle, but I know if I need them, they can be reached and will listen and, I hope, they know the same.

Again, in my experience, starting the conversation is the hard bit, but friends wont judge you and will listen and support.

Men are facing a crisis right now – WE ARE DYING TOO YOUNG

If you feel you can, help me raise a little cash through the MOvember foundation by clicking the link to my page below. More importantly help us break the stigma surrounding mens health – start the conversation






6 great life lessons

A fantastic video from Goalcast with 3 of the very best life lessons you will ever hear on how to live..

1. Dont judge others.

2. Never be late. Its better to be an hour early than a minute late

3. Make sure your serving towel is begger than your ego. Ego is the anesthesia that deadens stupidity

John Wooden – greatest college basketball coach ever – his calling was to impact on peoples lives. Ever day he could be fund with a broom brushing the floor of his own gym.

You want to impact on people….find your broom

4. Be kind. It cost nothing to be kind.

5. If your going to do something, do it right.

Being good is not good enough if you can be better, being better i not good enough if you can be best.

How are you living?

6. Just stand. No matter how rough the seas of this life get, no matter how tough things are you dont give up you dont back down you keep standing.

Everyone fails in their life. And sometimes you even hit rock bottom but you know what, rock bottom is a pretty good foundation.

How are you living?

Love this video thanks to those who shared it and brought it to my attention.