Developing Mental Resilience: Interview with TEDx Speaker Dominic Soh

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“Mental toughness is what separates the successful from the mediocre, and the elite from the average.”

Following on from his successful workshop at Talent Garden Dublin ‘Developing Mental Resilience for Success and Overcoming Adversity’, we sat down with TEDx speaker, author and 103km ‘ultra-marathoner’ Dominic Soh to find out about his journey so far, how to develop mental resilience and how to effectively manage stress.

1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I was born in Singapore and grew up there for the first 20 years of my life. After that, I moved to Melbourne, Australia. I moved there initially to study, but stayed on to work and have now lived there for the past eight years. Currently, I work in the careers department in RMIT University in Melbourne, but on the side, I do training and speaking engagements for companies, corporates and Universities.

I believe that one of the diseases of the 21st century, especially in the developing world, isn’t Ebola, smallpox or influenza – it’s mediocrity. It’s so easy to just go through the motions of life – ‘Monday blues’, ‘Wednesday hump day’, ‘thank God it’s Friday’, and rinse-and-repeat. This is not living; it’s mere existence. What drives me is getting the chance to empower others to become kickass in their lives and careers, and to be the best versions of themselves.

2. Can you tell us about your career journey so far and an obstacle you encountered and overcame?

I grew up wanting to become a pilot, not a public speaker!

In 2013, after finishing my studies in Melbourne, I decided to revisit my childhood dream of flying – I went for a number of flying lessons and then for my aviation medical.  At first, everything checked out, until the doctor discovered that there was something off with my bloods, which meant that I was at higher risk of having a stroke.  She couldn’t risk putting me in the cockpit of a plane with hundreds of passengers on board, so my dream of flying was crushed and I had to make a career pivot.

I made the firm decision that as long as the heart in my chest is beating, I would do whatever it took to succeed and live a full life.

3. What’s the best piece of advice you would give to help someone overcome a significant setback in their career and stay motivated to push through?

If life throws lemons at you, make a lemonade empire. If life throws shit at you, start a fertiliser conglomerate. If life throws bricks at you, build your real estate portfolio.

Basically, make the decision that you will pick yourself up, learn as much as you can, and emerge stronger, tougher and better than before – do whatever it takes, whether you feel like it or not.

If you do what you love, you will be good, but if you are able to keep doing what you hate, you will become unstoppable. Push through and push forward, even when the motivation isn’t there and especially when the odds aren’t in your favour.

Never, ever give up!

What are your top 3 tips for managing stress?

  • Recognise that stress is part of life – acknowledge the fact that life can punch you in the face and hit you in the guts. Agree that the journey is tough, whether you’re pushing for greatness or settling for mediocrity.
  • Decide that you will succeed no matter what – life is tough, but you can be tougher. Success is all about turning adversity into advantage and it is up to you to take full ownership and responsibility over your individual situation. Those who play the blame game, don’t change the game.
  • Use stress to your advantage – if you’re going through a tough time, hang in there. Make the most out of the situation and emerge better than before. In fact, deliberately increase the stress you have in your life (and see stress as challenges and opportunities to grow) because the more you can take on, the more you can impact the world. Stress is what turns coal into diamonds.

5. Professionally and personally, how important is it to develop mental toughness and how would you go about achieving this?

Mental toughness is what separates the successful from the mediocre, and the elite from the average. It is essential in all aspects of life, because even when you have the best skills, talent and opportunities at your disposal, if you give up too easily, you miss the point.

There are several ways to develop robust mental toughness:

  • Make a decision – everything that’s achieved in life starts with a decision. It could be deciding that you will get through a tough period in your in life, deciding that you will make this year the best year ever in your life or deciding that you’re sick and tired of making excuses and will start making things happen.
  • Develop close relationships – people who are successful in life are also successful in their relationships. When you know that there are people who have your back, you’ll be grittier. When you know someone is looking up to you as a role model, you’ll be stronger, and when there’s someone holding you accountable, you’re more likely to stick to your goals.
  • Do what you fear and hate – as mentioned before, if you do what you love, you’ll be good or even great. But when you can do what you hate consistently, you can be unstoppable. Deliberately seek out challenges that scare you and put you way out of your comfort zone. Do more in a shorter period of time and bite off more than you can chew.

6. How much of your success would you contribute to luck and how much would you contribute to hard work?

I attribute a minuscule amount of my success to luck and some to divine appointment –  the rest comes from consistent hard work. I believe in playing hard, but working even harder.

Keep up-to-date with all of the upcoming events at Talent Garden Dublin through our eventbrite page here, such as the Talent Garden Innovation School Open Day on April 4th.