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Layne Beachley – tackling demons and self-doubt to achieve success

Layne had the audience gripped at the RCSA conference as she recounted her path to become a seven time World Champion and occasional rapper. Here she shares the lessons along the way.

The last thing most people would think when they look at seven times’ World Surfing Champion Layne Beachley is “this is a woman who knows what it feels like to live with a lack of self-worth”. But as she told attendees at the RCSA conference in Noosa, it was this need to prove herself which compelled her to succeed.

Late on the second afternoon of a two-day conference is a tough speaking gig for most people, unless of course you are Layne Beachley. As the final speaker of the conference, Beachley had those in the room in the palm of her hands as they sat entranced listening to her talk about The Art of Success - mirroring the conference theme of The Art of Work.

Central to her message for those attending the sold out conference was how the relationship each person has with themselves sets the tone for all the other relationships in their life.

“Every challenge we face provides a stepping stone towards achieving what we want in our lives,” Beachley told the 350 industry participants from New Zealand and Australia at the conference. “I believe choice, not chance, determines our destiny.”

Beachley explained she had set goals for herself from a very young age, unsure how much the grief she experienced from the loss of her mother and an admission from her father had informed these decisions. “For me, everything can be connected back to my childhood,” Beachley said. “I lost my mum when I was six years old and then when I was eight, dad told me I was adopted.

“This was when I became aware that perception starts with the brain. While my dad was telling me about my adoption and how much he loved me, all I chose to hear was ‘you weren’t wanted, your mum didn’t love you, you are worthless’.

“In my mind, I decided I had to prove myself to the world to show I was deserving, or worthy, of love. I decided if I become a world champion, everyone will love me! I just didn’t know what I was going to be a world champion of.

“By the time I turned 14, I decided I would achieve world champion status through surfing. In my first competition, at 14, I came dead last.

“Upon reflection, all of my success emanated from humble beginnings;. I mean it took me about 900 takes to record my first radio advertisement. My first live television interview, I experienced stage fright and went mute. I even received a formal written complaint following my first motivational keynote presentation.”

Utterly unfazed by her loss, the young woman who had found solace in the ocean at Manly Beach held on to her desire to prove her worth and relished pushing herself to get better.

“I was often the only girl in the water, and recognised if I wanted to advance I had to upgrade from my old ‘foamie’ board to a fibreglass board and move to where the more experienced guys were surfing at [notorious] North Steyne beach,” Beachley explained.

“I knew I needed a challenge and even at 14, I knew that was the only way to grow.

“They [other surfers] didn’t cut me any slack and they would often yell at me, saying ‘you’re a girl - get out of the water’.

“They would pull my leg-rope, hold me back from catching waves and regularly insult me.

“But I had clarity of vision and I knew the fastest way to grow and achieve my ultimate goal of becoming a world champion was to surf with people who were better than me. I turned up every day despite their hostility...they don’t call it MANly for nothing.”

Beachley joined the women’s pro tour in 1990 at the age of 17 and now admits she ‘wasn’t the best surfer, but I had the strongest mental aptitude; Kelly Slater and other peers told me this regularly’.”

Unwittingly, Slater had a huge impact on Beachley who then dedicated herself to winning six consecutive World Championships “mainly because Slater had won five and I wanted to outdo Slater because I had defined success by becoming the best of the best”.

Beachley dug down into the depths of her psyche to discover ways to win and this meant working on her relationship with herself first and foremost, and not giving into that little voice inside of her head which suggests she may be worthless and wants to self- sabotage.

“When I have a goal, I commit to working towards it,” she said. “But it was after my fifth world championship that I started to get in my own way. I started to wrap myself in self-doubt. My sense of self-worth was over shadowed by self-doubt and self-sabotage.”

Beachley saw life coaches, undertook a course in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), began meditation, read Conversations With God and found inspiration listening to Eminem’s Lose Yourself on loop.

“I was in the last heat competing for my 6th world title when I looked down at my feet and it just hit me; I was done,” Beachley remembered.

“And then I tuned into what I was saying to myself and I thought ‘trust my training, trust my ability’ and I claimed it. Using the power of NLP, the words I AM and listening to Eminem, as it fortuitously came on over the speakers, inspired me to get out of my own way and focus on getting the job done.

“I still experience self-sabotage, but now I know what it looks like. I use empowering language that helps me and I replace ‘what if’ with ‘what is’.

“Being towed into 50-foot waves off the North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii taught me the value of recognising fear and breaking things down into three simple steps to overcome fear and achieve my goals. Even after months of training I still remember thinking ‘Don’t Fall!’

“I couldn’t believe it! At the pinnacle, literally, of the largest wave of my life I found myself focusing on what I didn’t want. That’s when I shifted my focus to the process - not the outcome. The three simple steps that I practiced in training.

“I am proud to say I shifted my thoughts from ‘Don’t Fall’ to ‘just stay standing’ and successfully rode the wave. I was so full of adrenalin I had to go and do it again.”

Throughout her professional surfing career, Beachley came to believe there are two types of people in life: the first are the dream thieves and life vampires; the second are honesty barometers.

“Honesty barometers are the people who will be your mirror of honesty,” she continued. “You become the sum of the top five people you spend the most amount of time with.”

It’s been a long road for the girl from Manly who sought solace from a world of grief in the waves.

As a speaker, mentor and workshop facilitator, Beachley now clarifies her vision based on how she wants to feel, which in turn inspires her actions and fuels her passion on a daily basis.

“To achieve success, you must begin by clarifying your vision, define what success looks and feels like and understand the intrinsic motivators that are driving you,” she explained.

“Surround yourself with honesty barometers, people who bring the best out in you and celebrate you.

“Finally, be prepared to confront your fears through action. Action is the antidote to fear.”

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