with greg layton

The Inner Chief is for leaders, professionals and small business owners who want to accelerate their career and growth. Our guest chiefs and gurus share powerful stories and strategies so you can have more purpose, influence and impact in your career.

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In this episode we dive deep into Meticulous Preparation.

Most of you have heard me wax lyrical about systemising high performance by using a High Performance Lifecycle like Prepare, Perform, Recover, Review. This is a powerful model and really comes to life when every step is respected and completed like a pro.

Today, we will focus on Meticulous Preparation.

10 years ago I went off the grid and spent 3 months living in the remote mountains of China with the Shaolin Kung Fu Monks.

I arrived at the gates, ankle deep in snow looking up at at the 5 metre brick walls surrounding the academy wondering what the hell I was doing in this place. My heart was pounding.

Through limited English I was ushered to my room. A sparse concrete floored cell with two very basic beds. One for me and one for another student. No heating, communal cold showers and training from dawn to dusk everyday. This place was the epitome of dedication to a craft…every hour of everyday spent refining your skills. My master had started at 6 years old and had been there for 20 years.

We began at 5am with Tai Chi and everyday we practiced Kung Fu, Chinese Kickboxing, Chinese, Meditation, Massage/Acupunture and Morality. We also had the most brutal conditioning sessions that involved thousand year old techniques from punching trees to toughen the skin, doing the splits with someone on your back and bear crawling up and down mountains and the temple stairs. Every minute of everyday was dedicated to mastery. In many ways it was the simplest period of my life.

While I was there one of the other international students prepared himself to break a brick on his head as a performance at a local festival. His preparation started 2 months out and followed a specific and proven pathway.

We all had shaved heads and he started toughening up the skin on top of his head by bending from the waste and leaning forward until his head took the weight. Sort of like a downward dog position but instead of using hands his head took the full load of his upper body with his hands crossed behind his back. He would then slowly roll his head back forth, side-to-side under the weight of his body to toughen the skin and strengthen his neck muscles.

He practiced hours of Qi-Gong, harnessing his mind and energy centres so they could be diverted when required to his head and neck.

About a month out he did a rehearsal in front of our troupe of 8 athletes where they took a very brittle brick and broke it over his head. It was like Level 1. And he kept doing this every few days. Slowly getting harder bricks. I could see him improve his focus, his posture…and then in the final days prior to the performance he spent more and more time with our master preparing him mentally and spiritually.

On his big day he sat cross legged, yogi style harnessing in his energy in deep meditation. He was on stage but off to the side for about 40 minutes while other performances carried on. He was totally in the zone oblivious to the goings on around him. Eyes slightly open but not focused on anything in particular. At peace. At one. It was a sight to behold.

Then on an agreed cue they walked up got a full brand new flawless brick and placed in top of his head. They then got a second brick and our master hammered it into the other brick right on top of his skull. It should have killed him.

But he didn’t even budge. I mean nothing happened other than brick went flying everywhere. About 30 second later he stood up, bowed to the audience and walked off.

After I asked him what it was like and he described like cool water flowing down his back. The most incredible experience of his life.

People are capable of the most remarkable things. But magic is never by accident. It can takes years of training, practice and focus to knock a big performance out of the park.

Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.

A lack of preparation, particularly in business leads to the following:

  1. Walking into meetings and getting owned
  2. Other people influencing you
  3. Loss of flow as you slip into overload
  4. Stress, anxiety and depression if not managed well (which leads to stress hormones like Cortisol being released into your body)
  5. Stuffing up big meetings and missing big opportunities
  6. A reputation that you’ve gone as far as you can

The thing is when people see someone who is winging-it in a meeting you can almost see their eyes light up. It can be a reputation and career killer.

And as you know reputation is the number one way to attract opportunities.

The opposite is that you walk into every meeting with a crystal clear plan of what is going to happen, the likely scenarios, your emotional response, the outcome, the key phrase and messaging.

In essence, you’re in front of the game. You already know what is going to happen in meetings…while everyone else is wondering what the meeting is about and why they’re here.

If you just walked into every meeting like that you’d 10 times your impact and influence over night. And your in-flow far more often which means you start getting oxytocin, serotonin, adrenaline and this cocktail of magical biochemicals that make your healthier, smarter and improve your wellbeing.

What’s more, where you’re in-flow, research says you don’t get change fatigue. Which is perfect for the modern business world because everyone has to constantly, rapidly adjust to keep up.

Meticulous preparation is one of the key differences between an amateur and a pro. A pro takes their prep very seriously. They leave no stone unturned, nothing to chance. Those that do this are so in flow and do all the most remarkable things.

To be a great Chief you have to think like a pro. Stop turning up and running through the motions and start preparing with a vengeance like every performance is your last.

I follow a 5 step process:

    • Define your ideal outcome
    • What you do you want people to think / feel and do when they leave the meeting / conversations / presentation?
    • Develop your strategy in the performance, the key messages and how you will deliver them
    • What are the likely scenarios / questions / objections / pitfalls?
  4. SKILLS:
    • Build your capability up Technically / Tactically / Physically / Mentally and Socially to the levels required for optimal performance
    • Rehearse multiple times and use video and other means to give you quality feedback


Then go and knock it out the park.

If you want to be in-flow at work, if you want more influence, if you want to perform like a PRO. Then start by acting like a pro. Whatever your craft is marketing, tech, law, finance, executive leadership, creative…be a pro, master your craft and you’ll have so much satisfaction in what you do.

Stay epic