Use Your Enemy As Your Energy | A Q&A with Ant Middleton

Matt Palmer 26 November 2018

Best-known as the Chief Instructor putting brave members of the public through the gruelling special forces selection process in Channel 4's SAS: Who Dares Wins, former SBS soldier Ant Middleton has also captained a team of men in a re-enactment of Captain Bligh's journey after the infamous 'Mutiny on the Bounty'.

2018 has been another big year for Ant after releasing his best-selling autobiography, as well as being pushed further than ever before by taking on the brutal challenge of climbing Mount Everest.

We had a chat with Ant about his incredible story, the lessons he's learnt along the way, and how these can be applied to the business world.

Hi Ant! You’ve said previously that in the early stages of your career, while you were given individual awards and recognition, you acknowledged that it was the teamwork side of things that you needed to work on. Why is being a team player so important?

Everything revolves around teamwork. Whether it's jumping on the bus and the driver taking you to work - that's teamwork, someone in the office who brings you a coffee in the morning to kickstart your day - that's teamwork. We take it for granted and don't break it down enough. Teamwork is how families work, how friendships work, how your social life works, the whole world orientates around teamwork. When you break it down like that and you hear people say, "I've got this far all by myself", they haven't - there's been an element of teamwork that has got them there. We need to acknowledge that nothing can happen without teamwork.

In SAS: Who Dares Wins, we get to see a glimpse of what you must have gone through during selection for the SBS. What advice can you give businesses on how to build resilience and maintain focus during tough times?

Be honest. Be brutally honest. That is the key. You need to start by being honest with yourself and then that allows you to be honest with other people. In this day and age, it seems like we need to beat around the bush and be careful saying this and that, but when it comes to business you need to keep the authenticity and integrity of the company by being honest and open. Be transparent with your customers about who you are and what you stand for, and be transparent with your team if they're not performing. We're all human and we all fail, so if we can have an open conversation about things then we can start finding solutions together.

Ant (right) stars in SAS: Who Dares Wins alongside  Jason Fox  (left) and Colin MacLachlan (middle)

In Mutiny, when you took on the role of Captain Bligh.

When I stupidly took on the role of Bligh...

Well, it was entertaining for us!

But you really showcased your leadership skills - what key piece of advice would you give to a manager looking to improve their leadership skills?

I think you just have to humble yourself as a team leader or a manager. Hand over that steering wheel every now and then, hand over that control. You'll know that you're a good leader if you've got good followship, if your team are behind you and willing to take the hits with you. To reach that, you need to be humble. You need to understand that you're never going to be the strongest person in every area - that's why you've got the team around you. When you sometimes take a step back and let someone else drive, it allows you to look at the bigger picture whilst also handing on responsibility and empowering your team.

"Don't let people define who you are - use your enemy as your energy."

This year you’ve had a best-selling book out where you go through the highs and lows of your life. What’s one of the most valuable lessons you’ve learnt which you think other people can benefit from understanding?

Use your enemy as your energy. A lot of people allow their enemies to define who they are. They take on what others are saying and let that dictate how they act - don't let anyone else define you. Use your enemies as your drive and use their negativity against them. I always say, 'kill people with your success'. Don't let people define who you are - use your enemy as your energy.

Ant Middleton takes on his biggest challenge yet in 'Extreme Everest'

We've seen you on our screens again recently in Extreme Everest.

They really should've called it Very Extreme Everest!

Totally agree - we all watched it and were blown away by what you went through, how did you keep control when you ran out of oxygen?

You just have to. You have two options, you're either going to live or you're going to die. And if you go into anything like that with a positive mindset then you're really only leaving yourself with one option. I implement positivity along with acknowledging the situation I'm in - being brutally honest with myself. And when you leave yourself with one option, you'll be amazed at what you can achieve. Sometimes when we have too many options in life and we bounce around not really knowing what to focus on, it's hard to find a solution. But when you leave yourself with just one option, you can put everything into that. And that's what I did on that day. With a positive mindset I gave myself one option and, before I knew it, I found a solution.

So, what are you working on next?

We've got two more series of SAS: Who Dares Wins coming out. We've got our fourth series in January which, this time, has both men and women. We've also filmed a celebrity version for Stand Up To Cancer.

Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us Ant!

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