Bill Gates is a fan of The Innovation Show, hosted by this week’s guest, Aidan McCullen. It’s also one of Barry O’Reilly’s favorites, because of the meaningful conversations Aidan has with guests, and because of Aidan himself, whose lifelong journey of reinvention is inspiring. Aidan played professional rugby for 10 years for the 2 most successful teams in Europe in Ireland and France before transitioning into the business world. He is an acclaimed consultant and advisor, with expertise in team transformation, innovation and team culture and leadership. He has also developed and delivered modules in Emerging Technology Trends at Trinity College. On this week’s podcast, he and Barry talk about his recent book, Undisruptable: A Mindset of Permanent Reinvention for Individuals, Organisations and Life, as well as the mental models he learned and unlearned that helped him become who he is today.

Moments of Change

“Difficult moments are always growth points,” Aidan remarks. “They’re inflection points where you can reframe them… as milestones rather than millstones.” Success is more about pushing through challenges and working hard to accomplish your goals, and less about how much talent you are born with, he tells Barry. The secret is to just keep going, and give it your all: “When I get out of this I don’t want to ever turn back and go, I should have done, I could have done… I never wanted to walk away with something and have a regret.” [Listen from 2:00]



Discipline Is the Magic Word

Aidan succeeds in rugby and in life because he just keeps showing up. “Discipline is like this force that you can use and point it at anything to use it for positive,” he tells Barry. When you do the work, Barry agrees, you set yourself up to get the best out of yourself and the situation. It’s what separates people who excel from those who are just ‘winging it’. An important discipline Aidan practices is mental rehearsal. When he is preparing for an event or workshop, he pictures the best possible ending first. This creates a mental pathway, he says. Your brain can then reverse engineer the steps to get there. He gives examples of how this technique worked for him in his career. [Listen from 7:05]

Lessons to Unlearn

Barry asks Aidan to share some lessons he had to learn and unlearn. [Listen from 19:45]

Some of the lessons Aidan shares include:

    • “There’s always a high and a low at the same time. They’re always coming in succession. The trick is to enjoy the highs but know there’s a low coming, so prepare for it. And when you’re in the low, understand that there’s a high coming again [so] you’ll get through this.” [22:00]
    • For every Batman, there has to be a Joker. The anti-hero gives contrast, which you now have to manage. Someone has to play that role so you can push through your boundary. Seeing them from this viewpoint spares you from feeling angry at them; it also helps you use that energy to move on with your goal. [25:15]
    • Don’t fall into the coconut trap. Let go of things that no longer serve you. Don’t over-identify with your jersey – you’re just its custodian for a time then you have to pass it along to the next person. [29:50]
    • “If you get bitten by a snake, it’s not the snake bite that kills you. It’s not removing the poison.” Bitterness and resentment saps your energy. Let those negative behaviors go and you’ll free up space for cognitive energy to do positive things. [32:10]
    • Say thank you to the people who impacted your life. [37:45]

Looking Ahead

Aidan is always learning and finishing up a course in executive coaching to “add some discipline” to his existing executive coaching practice. His own workshop, The Permanent Reinvention workshop, is doing very well, he tells Barry. He is humbled to see the impact his course is having on how teams communicate and collaborate. He also coaches senior leaders on thought leadership writing and executive presence. Another project he is passionate about is Edge School, an idea he conceived and is developing in collaboration with Alexandra College and the Learnovate Centre in Trinity College. Edge School will give students the opportunity to gain real world experience in emerging fields such as AI Ethics, cybersecurity and communication skills. This is not about making money, he tells Barry; it’s a legacy that he hopes that the school will use to create a template which they can share with other schools. [Listen from 42:15]

(check out the previous episode with Soumeya Benghanem, Product Leader at VMWare)