After decades of working in the creative industry, Todd Sampson can certainly tell a captivating story. At Torrens University Australia’s fourth Speaker Series event, Mr Sampson held the intimate audience in the palm of his hand as he relived some of his most extraordinary experiences.
However, in the same way ABC TV’s Gruen showed us that there’s more to advertising than meets the eye, Mr Sampson’s personal story is sure to surprise you. As an introvert who spent his early education years hiding in the library, he’s mastered adaptability to be able to push his body to the limit in shows like Body Hack.
Here are five skills that Todd Sampson learned on his journey to success.
Bravery can be learned
Before he discovered the secret to bravery, Mr Sampson was well on his way to the top – of Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak. Two weeks before the climb he found himself in New Zealand.
“I think to myself; I wonder if Edmund Hillary is in the phone book. And in true Kiwi fashion, there in bold, ‘Sir Edmund Hillary’. So, I phoned him,” recalls Mr Sampson.
The world’s most famous mountaineer not only took the call but invited Mr Sampson around for tea. After walking the block twice to calm his nerves, he knocked on Sir Hillary’s door and was invited in for a beautifully ordinary afternoon tea.
“He said, Todd, bravery is a learned skill. You only need to be brave when everybody else is panicking.”
Creativity is one of the most valuable qualities
If you’ve seen Todd Sampson’s TV show, Redesign My Brain, you might remember his climb to the top of a mountain – blindfolded. It turns out that was Mr Sampson’s metaphor for mental flexibility.
“The specialist said to me, don’t worry, your brain is going to adapt to no sight in maybe two or three hours. You’ll be completely fine.”
“Five and a half hours of whacking my head on overhangs, trying to get up onto that edge, it was not a fun experience,” recalls Mr Sampson.
In spite of the pain, Mr Sampson’s sense of touch and hearing got him to the summit, demonstrating that your brainpower and adaptability are limitless.
“I would argue that mental flexibility, also known as creativity, is one of the most important skills. Because almost everything else can be done by a computer and an algorithm except better than we could.”
“I believe it’s a differentiator for the future for everybody, for every business – regardless of what it is.”
You are so much more than your marks
Todd Sampson’s social media accounts blew up recently when he downplayed the career value of the HSC – the final year exam for High school students in the Australian state of New South Wales. So, he was keen to clarify his thoughts on Australian education at our Speaker Series.
“Please do well on HSC because that is the system – so beat the system you’re working within,” encouraged Mr Sampson.
In clarifying his message, Mr Sampson said that good marks don’t necessarily lead to success, while poor marks don’t necessarily lead to failure.
“We’re not our marks.”
He also shared the questions he really cares about when interviewing job applicants.
“I have never asked – ever – for anyone’s scores in any exams that they’ve ever taken. But I’ve asked every single person that I’ve hired: What have you done in your life that you’re proud of? What have you done to help other people? And, what have you failed at?”
Meditate like a champion athlete
Todd Sampson returned to New Zealand to find a characteristic that could almost guarantee success. He referenced the Dunedin Study which has been observing over 1000 people for more than 40 years.
“It’s not to do with base IQ, how rich your parents are or the private school you went to. It comes down to one teachable, learnable skill – emotional regulation.”
Mr Sampson revealed that those who can regulate their emotions are more likely to experience success. The key to unlocking emotional regulation is meditation.
“It is a technique used by the majority of athletes at the top of their game. The best of the best people will do some form of meditation.”
Most importantly, emotional regulation is a skill we can all achieve through the relatively simple practice of meditation.
“You have the ability. I have the ability and my daughter at 10 can do this. She can bring her heart rate, from full slamming heart rate, down to calm with maybe 15 breaths. Breath is incredibly, incredibly powerful.”
Hone your public speaking skills
In a world where we are increasingly competing with computers for jobs, Todd Sampson agrees with legendary investor Warren Buffet on an important skill for the employability of our future generation – public speaking.
You can redesign your own brain to be more comfortable with public speaking by just doing it.
“It’s exposure therapy. Each time you do it and you don’t die, you get a little bit better and better.”
“Hone your presentation skills, make an effort to make that a skill that you are amazing at, because I promise you – that alone can get you a lot of places,” assured Mr Sampson.
Overall, Mr Sampson’s message was that our individual circumstances can change, our employment can transform, and we all have the potential to alter our own lives. After a management career at the top of the advertising profession and almost a decade of body hacking and brain redesigning experiments, even Todd Sampson doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up.
“I don’t know what the end goal is for me, it’s constantly evolving and changing. But I do know this, whatever you’re doing at this moment, do it so well that other people notice how well you’re doing it and I promise you another door will open.”
“I just worry about a generation that stands looking at doors, demanding them to open.”
These are just five of the many inspirational messages that Mr Sampson shared in an engaging conversation that’s just what you need to get you fired up for the future. Watch highlights from the conversation here, or watch the full broadcast here.
And be sure to register for the remaining Speaker Series talks.