Working in the IT division of a government department, Greg Layton realised he was cast from a different mould one morning when he stepped into the elevator after ducking out to grab a coffee. It was 8.30 a.m. His co-workers were arriving for the day; Greg had been at work since 7 a.m.

“I was first in the elevator and I turned around as everyone else was filing in towards me and I looked up, and I tell you what, the lights were on, but no one was home. I looked into the eyes of the people who were getting in behind me and I just went, ‘Oh, my God, this is zombie land. If I don’t do something they’re going to convert me.”

While that might be a common story for people who start in Government or the corporate world and decide they want to go out and create something for themselves, the journey high-performance coach Greg shared on Bushy Martin’s Get Invested podcast was entire unique.

Greg started studying high-performance psychology, focussing on neuro-linguistics, and one of the tasks he had to do in that course was go and find someone in the world that is a model of high performance, and learn directly from them. Greg chose the Shaolin Monks in China.

“Before I knew it I was ankle deep in snow in regional China. I was off the grid for three months. Shaolin Monks do some of the most amazing martial arts tricks you’ve ever seen… A lot of these guys are standing on swards and stuff,” he said.

“For three months I spent all day, every day, from dawn until dusk training with the Shaolin … You learn everything from Kung Fu and kickboxing, to meditation, to Qigong, to Tai Chi. You learn it all, and it’s a process of rounding you out and becoming very, very centred and congruent in every single part of your life.

“They pushed you into territory you just never dreamed possible … my very first session in my little troop of students was in this boxing ring on the mat on the canvas, and we did this thing called power stretching.”

Greg explained that the Shaolin teach their students to handle extreme pain.

“Qigong is when you harness your energy, your energy centres and you might stand dead still in a specific pose for an hour, and then other guys would come along with little mini police batons and start bashing on your shins, and your wrists, and your knuckles, to toughen up the skin and the bone … Then we’d go over to these trees and we’d do these things, these punchings and these clawings of these trees.

“There is a few things that really hit home by the time I left. One is that magic isn’t real. What they do is real, they do throw needles through panes of glass, they do break bricks on heads. There is no such thing as magic … It’s always a process to excellence. Always. That process takes time, but not as much time as people think. You have to have unwavering belief in the journey, and I think it really, really struck home to me that you just have to believe in yourself, because one else is going to.”

Greg walked away incredibly flexible and strong, but the time with the monks taught Greg something he would carry with him through his career in high performance coaching; that if you want to be awesome at something, if you want to be world’s best, you have to learn direct from the masters.

“Whenever I’m going to go and learn something, if I want to get the next job, or the big contract or know something, I go to the best person I can possibly find and I employ them directly to teach me. It has paid off in spades.”

In addition to continual training and study, Greg has put himself through incredible personal physical challenges, including 250km-plus ultra-marathons in the Gobi and Atacama deserts.

These weren’t just travel adventures for Greg, they were personal experiments in high-performance. Greg believed that to be able to teach resilience and perseverance, he had to be able to draw from personal experiences.

“The Gobi march, I had finished it on pure bloody mindedness. I was not going to stop, no matter how hard it was, no matter how much my feet bled because of blisters, no matter how much the chaffing in places I don’t want to talk about hurt, we were just going to get through it, and I did.

“I ran across that finishing line and I had tears streaming down my cheeks, it was just a moment of, it was a metamorphosis, that’s the belief in me, that’s when it really happened, because I think I did a lot of this to try and prove to myself that I was mentally tough, because initially I didn’t think I was.”

Greg also went on to study hypnosis and other techniques that can be used to drive high-performing leaders in sport and in business. Those lessons Greg learnt he now uses with his clients, including sporting greats and with world-class coaches such as Martina Navratilova.

Greg is also a strong believer in the power of narrative and framing to increase productivity and improve outcomes in business teams.

“I see a lot of people, maybe they’re business owners, maybe they’re an entrepreneur or a middle manager and I listen to how they’re doing a one to one with someone in their team and there’s no hope, they’re not inspiring the person, they’re not nurturing their soul.

“The number one reason people leave a company is their boss … you’ve got to take some ownership of that … find out what (your staff’s) dreams are, what their goals are, find out about their family, find out how they tick, what motivates them and then say, ‘Hey, listen, you’re in this job but I know you want something more and I’m going to help you get there. I’m going to help you have my job. By the time you have my job I’ll have the job above it. We’ll do this as a deal,’ And you’ll develop people like crazy.”

Listen to the full interview here.

To develop a strategy for living your life by design, and take your own performance in life to new levels, contact the Know How team.