Interview with Sarah Furness | Knowledge Guild: Leadership under Pressure
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We spoke about Sarah's stories of becoming a passionately inspirational speaker, how she learned to control her fear in extreme situations, even death, and her advice for us as event professionals and leaders.
Sarah, tell us about your journey to become a speaker talking about high performance, resilience, and courage in extreme circumstances?
I spent 20 years in the Air Force flying helicopters leading on combat missions. And I suppose during that time; I learned a lot about what the brain does under pressure and the way we sometimes self-sabotage or doubt ourselves. Then I became really interested in training the mind and helping other people to do the same thing. So, when I left, the natural progression really was to go out there and sort of tell my story and help other people perform better, feel better, and feel more confident when they're under pressure.
What are some of the ways you prepare for a mission? How did you control your fear when facing extreme situations, and how have you built your mindset to deal with it?
My brain knew what to do. I didn't have to think because I had already trained my mind. So, the point is that the training works and if you want to perform better than ever under pressure, you commit to the training. You train your mind to focus your attention in one place, and you choose that one place. You train hard. You fight easy.
Tonight, the theme is about leadership under pressure. What advice would you give event professionals to reach peak performance? How can leaders manage pressure and support their team to deliver under pressure?
We often think that we need to be naturally good at dealing with pressure. But probably the most important lesson I learned was that performance and resilience under pressure are not actually instinctive. It's something we learn, something we can be taught. And when you know how to teach yourself that or be taught it, then things become a lot easier. And one of the easiest things you can do is actually just focus your attention somewhere where it serves you, rather than focusing on the fear or worrying about things that are out of your control. I call it using your attention as a force for good. And that's one of the techniques that I talk about in my speeches.
What's next for you Sarah?
I am hoping to start my international tour next year on the speaker stage, and I have just written my first book which will complement my speeches, and that is coming out in October. So, lots to look forward to in 2022 and beyond.
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