Earlier this year, Investec invited ex-England captain Sir Andrew Strauss OBE to join guests in a virtual discussion, hosted by broadcaster Isa Guha. We’ve since published a three-part series exploring some of Sir Andrew’s views on post-pandemic cricket, high performance, leadership, and getting the best out of a team.
We didn’t stop there, however. Knowing Andrew’s belief in the importance of inspiring future generations through sport, we also invited students to join us for an exclusive webinar with the former captain and our partners Behind Every Kick and Lane4.
This session was an opportunity for young people to hear directly from Andrew about some of the skills he has developed over the course of his career that can be applied to daily life.
Andrew talked about what resilience means to him, how he learnt to power through difficult times and why we can learn a lot from failure.
Here are his five tips that can help young people to build resilience.
1. Remember that everybody faces tough times
Firstly, it’s important to understand that everyone faces challenges in life.
Andrew says: “Whatever we go on to do in life, there’s going to be ups and downs in the road. There’s not been a person in the history of mankind that’s not been required to deal with hardship along the way.”
This means you shouldn’t compare yourself to others. “At a young age, you’re often comparing yourself to your brothers and sisters or your school mates,” he says. “There’ll be someone you look at and go, ‘they make life look easy and they’re always successful.’ But they will have trials and tribulations just like you do. Whether you’re Kevin Pietersen, Joe Root or David Beckham – they’ve all been on the same journey that you are on right now. Life is filled with moments when things just don’t go your way, and that’s okay.”
2. Don’t try and avoid failure
Because we all experience tough times, it’s helpful to learn to accept failure. This was a lesson he learned early on in his cricketing career.
“When you’re playing international cricket there are ups and downs every week,” he explains. “You need to live with that because it doesn’t matter how good you are, cricket’s a game of failure; you fail a lot more than you succeed.”
When things do go wrong, it’s important to try again.
“The great players in cricket, the ones that go onto play 100 test matches and play for ten years or so, they find a way to come back and score runs even when they’re not feeling great. That skill is far more important than having a great cover drive or hitting sixes – none of that is as important as the ability to resolve yourself and come back from tough times.”
The great players in cricket, the ones that go onto play 100 test matches and play for ten years or so, they find a way to come back and score runs even when they’re not feeling great.
And, Andrew adds, accepting failure is not a challenge faced only by sports players.
He gives the example of tech entrepreneur Elon Musk. “When Elon Musk was designing his rockets, the first four he designed blew up. He only had money for one more rocket otherwise he was going to go bankrupt. He designed this rocket, managed to launch it successfully, and after that has managed to launch an unbelievably successful business.”
Grand ambitions are not a bad thing. “Have big ambitions, but be prepared to fail along the way,” Andrew says. “That failure is part of the learning process.”
Whatever we go on to do in life, there’s going to be ups and downs in the road. There’s not been a person in the history of mankind that’s not been required to deal with hardship along the way.
3. Ask for support from the people around you
A support network of friends and relatives can help anyone at any stage of life – and is especially important for young people.
“When I look back on my career, having my family, my wife, my friends there was such an important thing. They were people who weren’t going to judge me on whether I got a good score or not, and were willing to look after me when times were tough.”
It helps to be honest about how you’re feeling. Andrew remembers a particularly difficult Ashes tour in Australia in 2010, when he was caught out on the first day of the series. “That was the worst moment of my career,” he admits. “It was so humiliating for the captain to get out on the first day of the Ashes series. When that happened the best thing I could do was go back to my hotel room and see my wife and kids, and talk to my mates who love you no matter what happens.”
4. Find your passion
Andrew also believes that key to building resilience is identifying the things that you are passionate about.
He explains that it is much harder to stay strong when you are doing something that you don’t care deeply about. “If you’re just doing something for the sake of it and it doesn’t work out, then it’s harder to be resilient. But if you’re passionate about it and you love doing it, then it’s not hard to take the low moments.”
For young people in particular, it’s important to remember that that passions be different for everyone. “If someone else says a big ambition would be getting a job in the city, that doesn’t mean that you would like it too,” he says.
“Always think about what is it that floats your boat, what is it you’re genuinely passionate about. It could be a sporting thing, it could be anythin. Keep thinking about what you’re passionate about and you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.”
If you’re just doing something for the sake of it and it doesn’t work out, then it’s harder to be resilient. But if you’re passionate about it and you love doing it, then it’s not hard to take the low moments.
5. Accept the things you can’t control
Lastly, Andrew advises young people that sometimes the most important thing to do is to let go of control.
“We all like to be in control,” he says. “If something’s important to us we like to think if we do everything right that will guarantee the outcome. But unfortunately that’s not the case. And so we’ve just got to accept there are limits to what we can control.”
This approach helped Andrew improve his performance. Going out to bat in the final innings of a New Zealand test match, Andrew recalls how he dramatically shifted his mindset. “I went out there thinking it may well be the last game I ever played for England,” he remembers. “So I thought I was going to savour every moment. Just having that altered mindset from one that was grounded in failure, to one that was grateful, was the key for me going on and getting the highest test score I ever got.
“From that moment onwards it was all about staying in the present, being grateful to be playing for England and accepting that what will be will be: I can’t control everything.”
Read other lessons and memorable moments from Andrew’s career – both on and off the pitch – below.
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