Inside the mind of a berserker

Why You Harness The Power of Emotion To Become Unstoppable

Want strength? Some of the most feared fighters in history were known as the Berserkers. These Norse warriors were named because of their ‘bersker rage’ – a mad fit of anger that they would leverage on the battle field. In this heightened and agitated state, they would become appear invulnerable and would also be able to accomplish feats of incredible strength.

Enemies facing the Berserkers on the battlefield would be terrified, and it is a well-known fact that campaigns are 90% won when the opposition is defeated in their mind.

There have been more recent accounts of something similar too. Hysterical strength is a term used to describe more recent scenarios where individuals have seemingly been able to dig into an immense reserve of strength on demand.

This is where the stories of Mothers lifting cars off their children trapped beneath come in.

Think it’s just a myth? Turns out there is a solid scientific explanation for how this might be possible. Under extreme stress, it seems likely that the body produces excess amounts of testosterone, adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones increase the heart rate, focus, awareness and muscle tone and this is where the extra strength comes from.

Actually, it goes even a little deeper than that. The thing is, all of us have limits to our strength imposed by our minds and our biology. When you go to lift a weight, you do so by recruiting muscle fibre – little bands that make up the muscle and contract in order to give us our strength. The most muscle fibre that the average person can recruit at once under normal circumstances is around 30%. The most that a highly trained athlete can recruit is closer to 50%. So, a highly trained athlete is only capable of tapping into roughly half of their maximum strength. This is what we mean when we refer to a ‘mind muscle connection’.

The reason we can’t access so much of our strength is a) that it would likely cause us injury as we would break a muscle, pull a ligament etc. and b) that it would fatigue us. If we were to use that much of our muscle power in a single movement, we’d have no energy left for anything else!

But under the right circumstances, being able to dip into these huge reserves of strength is incredibly useful. And adrenaline and other hormones under the right conditions allow us to tap into that power. Studies show that yelling in the gym can actually increase adrenaline and thereby enhance muscle fibre recruitment, resulting in strength improvements!

Now imagine if you could tap into even just 80% of that power at will simply by harnessing your emotions.

Emotions for Calm, Collected Focus

But there’s only so far that being able to leap tall buildings and lifting cars will get you. In the real world, physical strength isn’t really what matters.

This is where the ‘flow state’ comes in. A flow state is often described as a state of calm, focused, bliss. It is what happens when the world seems to slow down because you are so intently focussed and engaged on what you are doing. This is also known as “being in the zone”.

Have you ever opened a cupboard and seen something fall out but moved in super-fast motion to catch it? That’s flow state.

More often we hear about it in extreme sports – athletes finding their flow and being able to pull off incredible stunts at incredible speeds.

Outside of physical activities, it is seen in music. When the entire band synchronises whilst playing, this is a type of flow state.

When you have a conversation with someone that lasts all night, that’s a flow state.

When you’re writing a book and you write so long that you don’t even notice the time passing that is a flow state.

Studies show us that executives in flow manage are hugely more productive than those that aren’t. The same goes for startups and other entrepreneurs.

So, what is flow?

Flow is another emotion. Another mental state that is triggered by the release of hormones and neurotransmitters. In this case, it is a subtle variation on the fight or flight response, a subtle variation on stress and panic. Here, you believe something is just as important as preventing yourself from getting injured, it is just as compelling as fighting for your life – but it is also fun rather than scary.

You have the entire attention of your body and mind which brings about a release of excitatory hormones along with calming ones and those related with bliss – such as anandamide. This actually suppresses activity in the prefrontal cortex, triggering a state known as ‘temporary hypo-frontality’. This prevents us from worrying, from second guessing or from over-thinking.

You just do.

It’s the opposite to how most of us live our lives today and that’s why many of us are filled with anxiety, frozen with fear.

Imagine being able to talk up to a woman/man in a bar and deliver your wittiest conversation ever. Imagine being able to talk in front of an audience with passion and conviction and enrapture them completely in what you’re saying. Imagine being able to work on the projects that matter to you for hours on end without even looking up.

No fear. No doubt. No bursts of anger or unwanted emotion.

This is when our best work is done. This is when we are happiest.

Many people try and live their lives in flow as much as possible. The problem is that most of us are full of anxiety and busy with chores and things we need to do. These limitations leave us stressed, anxious and busy and they take our mind out of the moment. Our entire body and mind cannot possibly be in-sync when we are worrying about debt, or what our boss said at the office.

Entering flow means being in the moment which not only makes you happy and confident – it makes you unstoppable.

Taking Control of Your Emotions

So how do you take back control over your emotions? There are multiple ways, but let’s address two important points: physiology and mindset.

Physiology refers to the fact that your emotions are really an extension of how you feel. Emotions describe things like happiness, sadness, anger, fear. We think that these emotions are born from our minds but a lot of the time, that’s not the case at all.

Rather, emotions come from our bodies. Emotions come from feelings which include things like hunger, tiredness, hot, cold.

The very function of your emotions is to trigger behaviours that will help you to fix the way you feel. When you haven’t eaten enough lately, your blood sugar dips. This, in turn, triggers a release of cortisol – the stress hormone. This tells you that something needs to change and wakes you up and in the wild, this would have encouraged you to look for food.

When you eat, your blood sugar spikes, you produce leptin and serotonin. This makes you happy and content and encourages you to sleep – eventually serotonin converts to melatonin the sleep hormone.

So, in other words, the way you feel is often the result your physiology and that changes the way you think. You think you’re angry because you had a bad day? Possibly. More likely, you had a bad day because you’re angry. And you’re angry because:

  • You didn’t sleep
  • You’re in mild pain
  • You haven’t eaten enough
  • You’ve eaten the wrong things

So, one way to change your emotions and to take back control is to acknowledge them. Firstlyrecogniseze that if you’re angry, it’s probably due to physiological reasons and it will pass. At least it won’t seem so bad later.

Secondly, seek to change this. Eat something. Sleep. Take the cue. Learn to follow your own rhythms and work when you’re naturally most productive. Follow the rhythms of the day and get your circadian cycles in check.

And at the same time, look at ways you can directly control your physiology. The very best way? Breathing!

If you learn to breathe correctly (using belly breathing to fill the lower portion of the lungs, then the upper portion) and if you use slow, controlled breaths, then you will be able to lower your heart rate and calm your entire body. This will change your parasympathetic tone, taking you out of ‘fight or flight’ and into ‘rest and digest’. Try it the next time you feel overly stressed, overly competitive or worked up after an intense workout – your heart rate will slow and your mind will grow calmer.

Leave a comment below and tell me when you last went “berserk” and what it took to calm you. Did you calm yourself? Did you change your physiology? Was it something else that made you change your behaviour? When were you last in flow? Why did you access the flow emotions at that particular moment?

25 Business Success Afformations

Affirmations not working fast enough? Need to powerfully turbo charge your Mindset? Have you tried Afformations (R) instead? One of the first things we talk about in my Mindset MOT is affirmations and Afformations. Whilst they may sound a little “out there” they’re the foundation for a positive mindset.

Which ones will you try?

P.S if you like this infographic please pin it to your Mindset Pinterest board.

Your Mind Needs Growth

Can I ask a personal question?

  • What makes you happy?
  • What is your idea of a perfect evening?

Okay that’s two questions but how you respond is important. For many of us, the answer would be something like relaxing on the sofa, watching a great TV show and eating something delicious. Maybe you want to stay in with your loved one, or maybe you’d just like to relax and listen to some music.

These things are comfortable and they are refreshing. These things help you to feel calm and to rejuvenate from a tough week.

But you know what? Your mind doesn’t like these things.

In fact, these are the worst things you can possibly do as far as your mind is concerned!

The reason for that is simple: when you relax and when you chill, you don’t challenge your mind. The result is that it starts to atrophy.

Grow or Shrink

The brain is able to adapt to whatever you throw at it due to a process called brain plasticity. Brain plasticity describes the ability of the brain to grow and change shape: to create new neurons and to become stronger. Herein lies the principle of SAID: specific adaptations to imposed demands. If you practice languages, you get better at language. If you practice balance, your brain gets better at that.

But if you’re not growing, then all that extra neural matter is just wasted energy. The result? Your brain starts to atrophy and starts to burn through that extra matter. The result is that you deteriorate mentally and you’re not as happy as you once were.

Grow or shrink. Move forward or move backwards. Being ‘passive’ isn’t an option.

Your Routine Lifestyle Is Killing Your Brain

Routines are the structure of life. They simplify it. They limit the brain-draining decision making. If you eat spaghetti every night for dinner, you don’t have to waste 30 minutes each day wondering what to have for dinner. It’s spaghetti just like it was yesterday. And the day before and the day before and the day before that.

Routine lets us perform complex tasks like driving a car, with little mental energy. It becomes instinctive. Routines are run by your subconscious. They need very little brain activity to complete. You could perform them in your sleep.

Your Brain Loves Growth

When you learn a new language or skill, the brain will see this as positive stimulus. It sees this as a chance to get stronger and to ultimately improve your ability to survive. Thus it produces positive hormones and neurotransmitters like dopamine and brain derived neurotrophic factor. These help you to learn, but they also prevent the atrophy I mentioned. They protect the brain against degeneration and they make you smarter.

These help you to learn, but they also prevent the atrophy I mention. They protect the mind against degeneration and they make you smarter.

So while you might feel like the very best thing you can do for your brain is to relax and to sit down, actually the brain much prefers challenge and learning.

Sure, have your evening off, but make sure your life isn’t just a case of alternating between stress at work and doing ‘nothing’ at home.

Just vary the routine. The old adage “a change is as good as a rest” came about for a reason.

If you’re feeling meh it’s time to crack out the colouring books, the puzzle books or the language learning MP3s.

It’s time to use your mind for the reason it was created.

It’s NOT Our Fault

My thoughts and prayers for the victims of the attacks on #London and #Manchester. I am rapidly losing patience with people who naively theorise that the perpetrators act for any reason other than Fundamentalism and Radicalisation. Attempts to hypothesise that it is all because of foreign policy or some other spurious theory that does not directly relate to the Indoctrination of Abhorrence for our Western Culture and values, including eight-year-old girls at pop concerts and foodies sampling ostrich burgers at famous markets is foolish and actually irresponsible.

The erroneous belief that our policies have brought this on ourselves is like saying a rape victim asked for it because she wore a short skirt. Or a suicidal schoolboy deserved to be bullied because he was fat.

It’s too simplistic to blame terrorist attacks on Western ideology because it doesn’t explain the actions of extreme violence in countries outside of its control; for example, the Boko Haram kidnapping and killings in Nigeria, the murder of Coptic Christians in Egypt, the multiple bombings in India or the terrorism in the Phillippines.

We need to stop applying our sophisticated logic to barbarism and concentrate on finding ways to prevent the growth and operation of terror cells in our midst.

The evil assault in Manchester was intended to cause maximum impact because of the singer’s popularity with children and teenagers, particularly, but not exclusively, female. Targetting such innocence is absolutely the most grotesque and cowardly act.

The attack in London was hideous in the way it was aimed at innocent people enjoying a warm evening out in our capital. My fifteen-year-old son often skateboards around the city and travels on the tube alone. My family loves to walk along the river.

As a Londoner, a mother and a live music fan, my world has been rocked. I reminisced with my sister the concerts that we were dropped off to attend without parental accompaniment; embarrassingly, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, Shalimar, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and too many more to name, but the point was: we went alone. I remember waving my daughter off when she went with our neighbour’s little girl and her dad to see the Spice Girls. My son’s thirteenth birthday treat was a V.I.P. ticket to see our shared favourite band, Black Sabbath. Tony Iommi spotted little Alex in the audience he waved at him and got a roadie to hand my boy their playlist. They played Hyde Park, where incidentally, Sound Garden was supporting; Chris Cornell, now no longer with us. My youngest hasn’t yet even been to a concert…

I do not pretend to understand how the bereaved must feel right now, but I hope as a nation, we are not cowed by this evil. I hope we do not succumb to our initial instincts of holding our children too close, attempting to keep them so safe so that they never feel the joy of freedom that only a few years ago, we took for granted as our right of passage.

My deepest and heartfelt sympathies go out to all the bereaved, injured or affected in any way by these monstrous atrocities.

What We Can Learn From Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin would put on a disguise and sneak into the movie theatre where his latest blockbuster was playing. He would find a place in the back of the house and watch for the reaction of the audience. He was already successful; he had made a fortune. By the time he walked into the cinema, the picture had already been released, so at that point of retrospect, there was, in fact, nothing more he could actually do. When asked why the master of imposture did such a thing, his simple response was; “Because I care.”

How many of us feel the same way? How many of us make a point of going back to our customers or clients in an anonymous way to find out what they really think?

For those of us who do not, is it because we simply don’t care? Is it because of time constraints? Or maybe, is it because we have become inflexible and unwilling to change what we have created? Do we consider the product we offer as standard and fair; some people like it, and some do not, and there is no pleasing everybody?

Some years ago I was having lunch with my family at a good restaurant in London; the sort with a celebrity chef’s name above the door. Everything was a little too rich for my then six-year-old daughter. Instead we asked for some plain chicken and they were happy to oblige. When it arrived, my little girl asked for ketchup. The unsophisticated request turned the maître d’s face from looks of bemusement to utter repulsion, but in fairness, he summoned and immediately dispatched a flunky to purchase a bottle before the meal went cold.

Did the anointing of Heinz’s best condiment dilute the chef’s reputation? Did he come flying out the kitchen, cleaver in hand, and expel my child, throwing her tomato-soused dish after her? Of course not! And because of that we returned; many and several times over. Incidentally, now my little girl is twenty-four and she has learned to live without the dreaded sauce, although she still enjoys it as a dip for cucumber. Bonkers but true.

SO – how often do we go the extra mile to satisfy our clients? Should we consider this as responding to customer’s needs, or do we see it as a dilution of our brand?

Next time we think about standardizing our offering, perhaps we should take some time to reconsider the “One Size Fits All” mentality. It may well be easy to buy an off-the-peg suit, especially if you are of average build. Indeed, it is far cheaper and instantly gratifying. Certainly, in our age of Amazon Prime, we simply don’t like waiting for much anymore. But the experience of a personal tailor creating your made to measure suit, with the fabric, the lining and the cut of your choice, and preferably made on Savile Row, is infinitely preferable and a much more satisfying long term experience, especially in the wearing. The fact is, following classic lines, but to have them adjusted just for you, cannot fail to make you feel special.

How ironic that in order to demonstrate the idea of aiming for bespoke we should remember the work ethic of a man dressed as a tramp; arguably the first screen actor who so beautifully defined the art of bittersweet comedy, and who demonstrated with tear-jerking empathy the human condition: the late and very great Charlie Chaplin.

March News

Here’s a snap of me delivering a workshop at the Imperial College Business School for some amazing strong survivors of trafficking. It’s one of the most prestigious universities in the UK. We covered positivity, confidence, and self-esteem. Straight away, I was invited to lecture at another university. Also feeling proud of the presentation skills work last week at Claims Consortium Group because it’s just been voted the 46th in the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies to work for and just back from an Intensive VIP coaching session in Barcelona. Love my work x

Your Own Personal Mouse Moment

I was trying to summon up the courage to dispose of a dead shrew-mouse-vole-thing (couldn’t focus long enough to tell) that the cat brought into the sitting room via the cat-flap. I threw a saucepan over it and ran from the room shrieking, then posted as much on my Facebook page, saying,

“PLEASE don’t tell me it’s only natural or she was bringing me a gift Just tell me what scares you so that I can feel less ridiculous OR send me fortifying encouragement OR offer to come over and get rid of the rigor-mortis-rodent that lies in repose on my particularly nice Oriental carpet…” words to that effect.

I was lucky enough to receive all sorts of fortifying comments, but one in particular from a dear friend in London via Australia really struck a chord with me.

We had joked about all the terrifying insects and beasties that render most people useless except Aussies because they grow up getting used to dealing with them.

Karen pointed out that I get up and speak with ease but although I think she’s pretty good at presenting already, she said she was petrified of it and still learning to do it; “so we all have our own “Mouse Moments.”

She reminded me to take that fearlessness that I have when I stand up in front of an audience of thousands and direct that to one little mouse.
Earlier I helped someone see that they need to spend more time on their fitness or end up finding the time to spend away from work and family when they fall seriously ill. The fear was very real about taking time out but I helped them to see that they would be likely to lose far more than time if their health failed.
Your personal Mouse Moment might be the immediacy of birds, heights or things that go bump in the night. Your mouse moment might be the longer-term fear of not being good enough, your partner’s infidelity, or heart failure.

So what did I do about the shrew-mouse-vole-thing? Well, naturally as is fitting for this age of social media, I took a photo. Then, after a (reasonable) amount of fuss making and an (unreasonable) amount of nigh-on hysterical laughter at the absurdity of my behavior, on went the disposable gloves; out came the fire tongs and the poor little creature was flung under a bush. Of course, I felt like an incredibly triumphant She-Rah Warrior Princess of Power as a result.

The thing is we all have Mouse Moments. So the question is what are you going to do about yours?

Arrested Development

According to Dr. Maria Montessori, one of the ways children can discover and develop their independence is through regular participation in household chores. I’ve just seen a guide for age appropriate tasks, like putting toys in a box (age 2/3) raking leaves and emptying the dishwasher (age 6/7) all the way to shopping for groceries from a list and baking bread/cakes by age 12.


Sadly, conventionally schooled, I missed out on this groundbreaking alternative education; I am now about a hundred-and-four but still quite hopelessly trying to master the art of actually following a relatively simple and straightforward shopping list…


Now I totally agree that getting your kids to help around the house is for their own good. But apparently, this is not so that you can flick on the Nespresso machine, recline on your Le Corbusier chaise longue, and flick through Elle Decoration, while giving the housekeeper an hour off. Or would it be closer to say, flick on the kettle, sigh over a cup of instant coffee (you ran out of capsules last week, and there’s no sign of George Clooney), slump on the sofa, and read the You Magazine you didn’t get time for last Sunday, while taking a guilty half hour off all the stuff you know you need to do, cheerfully reminding yourself that self-employed shouldn’t mean fitting your advertising campaign around the spin cycles of a flipping incessant washing machine. Either. Neither. Both. Whatever.


Help around the house, particularly the picking up of toys, is of great benefit to my boys, especially the important development of their delicate eardrums. Are you aware of the strange nocturnal sound emitted by a sleepy and barefooted grown up, who has gone to check their little angel at night, and trodden on a small but strategically placed collection of Lego Mini Figures?

The problem with children and chores is that being a teeny weeny tiny bit of a control freak, I am really quite specific about how things are done. Call me fussy…


I’ve concluded that most of the time, things are better done yourself. Apart from cups of tea. That’s always best when someone makes it for you. And that includes a Hobnob, preferably chocolate.


The boys promised to clean the litter tray of our two little Siamese members of the family, but two easily distracted boys and cat poo? No thank you.


The eldest is a whizz with the hoover. However, he clearly watched the cyclone vortex doo dah commercial far too often and believes our appliance has the suction powers of a UFO about to beam up Captain Kirk. Witness one mildly frustrated mother extracting almost half a tree from the not quite so flexible hose (yep, I kid you not).


And your obliging kid running the dishwasher with three plates is not all that helpful* Sorry to be a killjoy. I do sincerely hope I won’t be the cause of arrested development. I am quite sure the pediatric psychologists reading this are currently rolling their eyes and looking at their calendars for availability in the latter part of 2020.


The truth is, I loathe having to spend hours over household chores as much as my boys. I’d rather leave pots to soak in the sink than stand and scrub (far less labour intensive) and in shame, I can sort of see that Quentin Crisp may not have been joking when he pointed out that after the third year, the dust doesn’t get any worse. Besides, we’d rather go out for a walk, watch a movie or play Monopoly.


So, in conclusion, there is only one thing for it.


I need a wife.**


A Nobel Peace Prize should be awarded to the person who finally invents a dishwasher with an integral waste disposer. Think of all the arguments they will save about scraping and or rinsing before stacking…

**Bugger off. As a woman and a mother, I’m being ironic. Get over it.

The Perfect Christmas

My idea of perfection is not your idea of perfection. It is alarmingly easy to find yourself stressed out at this time of year.

This is probably all based around that rather annoying concept of – expectation.

In fact, the perfect Christmas only exists in your imagination, because everyone’s ideas are different!

We all have an idea of how we want the holidays to be; from who should be involved in them to where we should be having them, and that’s long before we get down to the detail of what we eat, what we give, what we wear and even how we decorate!

Do we keep gatherings small, do we go traditional or modern, do we go with turkey, do we stick to a budget with gifts or say it’s only for the kids? Do we have your mother, my mother, everyone’s mother, eggnog or mulled wine, bread sauce or cranberry relish, Christmas pudding or chocolate fondue? The decisions are endless!o

The idea of a perfect Christmas in the perfect house with perfect decorations and the perfect relationship with a perfect dinner and perfect presents and just the right amount of perfect snow outside is going to make you crazy with disappointment if even one of the elements is not right. It’s also just a little bit Stepford…

I recently had a chat with someone who spent a considerable amount of time deliberating stamps. If she got the Christmas ones, would they be too frivolous, and would she be considered a spendthrift if she used first class or perhaps mean if she sent her greeting cards second? I was actually amazed that this young girl was bothering at all, as it seems everyone is using email greetings these days.

The point is, there simply isn’t a right way or a wrong way. There is only what makes you feel comfortable and provided it causes no offense, you should really do what you like. Stop focussing on how you think things are MEANT to be and just enjoy how they are right now, in the moment you have.

Savour the brief moments that bring us all cheer; the brass band playing at my local supermarket was a perfect example! It was so lovely to hear some festive music as I bought my brussels and cranberries…

Just don’t expect anyone else to take responsibility for your ultimate Christmas. One of the girls at my gym has told me she’s dropped several hints to her partner that she would like to be given a ticket to the January Bootcamp sessions. She is quite sure it won’t happen. Maybe, she should tell her partner that she’ll be signing up for the sessions anyway, and compromising on something else. That way, she won’t get frustrated on the morning of the 25th when she opens up her gift of socks/fragrance/breadmaker (you get my point)

Anyway, don’t forget that we are never far away from someone who is struggling, and whatever you can do to help at this time will make you feel much better than you do right now, so have a think about what more you might be able to do at this time of year. People are in vulnerable positions everywhere. It’s not exclusive to the elderly, the children, the poor or even the better-off. Do what you can x