Transcript: Abi Griffiths – Developing my Career in Television (Max#43)

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Kevin: Welcome to Maximise Potential the podcast to educate and motivate through a range of original interviews designed to help you maximise your potential. Brought to you in association with the award winning recruitment group Jenrick.

Welcome back to Episode 43 of the Maximise Potential Podcast. Abi Griffiths is one of the rising stars of TV presenting regularly appearing on Sky, ESPN, the BBC and most recently coming off an incredibly hectic Olympic and Para Olympic schedule. When you meet Abi it is clear to see why she is in such demand as her enthusiasm and energy flow with an incredible abundance. What is also very clear is the amount of investment Abi has made within herself over the years to equip her with not just the technical skills but also the mental skills required to excel within this very competitive profession. Here is Abi to explain this in more detail.

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Abi Griffiths welcome to the Maximise Potential Podcast.

Abi: Thank you very much.

Kevin: When we were talking before we started recording today we were chatting about your history how you got into TV presenting and there were two areas in particular that stood out as I think wonderful examples of areas where you’ve had to face adversity. The two areas were the amount of investment that you put into yourself and your career in TV presenting even though at the time you didn’t have a career in TV presenting and there were no guarantees of getting one I found that fascinating. The second area was when you touched on rejection and the amount of rejection that you have to deal with on a daily basis when you don’t get an audition, when you are told that you are not quite right for a role that people are thinking about I think that is fascinating as well because you’ve learnt how to deal with that and how to again move forward staying true to yourself. They are the two areas I think the rest of it will just flow into place around there. So I’m going to turn it over to you talk to me about how you invested in your future in a career that you didn’t actually have at that particular time.

Abi: Well it all started off I think with a knowledge of what I wanted to do. I just wanted to present and I didn’t know where it came from I just had this burning desire to do it. My first ever audition, so actually this is going to touch on the second point to, it was for children’s BBC and I sat there and I read out these cards, birthday cards and it was brilliant and I loved it so on one level it absolutely confirmed wherever this kind of dream had come from it confirmed that that was what I wanted to do. But suddenly I realised the actual skill within it because you just think oh my god it’s the best job ever you just talk for a living. Well there is actual skills and I think that in that CBBC audition I had to do it for time I had no concept of reading out birthday cards for two minutes. There was about ten cards and I think I got through one. I thought there is going to be nine other kids that are like desperately unhappy and you just need to know skills. And I think at that moment then I was so close to getting that. So again we’ll mention this in the second point. But I knew then that I needed to go out and learn what it was to be a presenter even though I had this desire to do it I knew then that there were skills that I needed to invest in. So that started a magnitude of presenting courses that I went on and there’s things that you absolutely learn on the job that you will never ever get from doing training courses but at least you will feel somewhat more prepared. So doing the course when someone is speaking in your ear I mean that is so foreign when you first do it but the more you do it the more that it just becomes second nature. Just going out with a camera I mean lots of people asked me how they can start getting involved in presenting nowadays it is so much more easier because these things aren’t so expensive you know you can do it on your mobile phone, loads of people have got different ways of recording things. When I was doing it I think I took out part of my student loan to buy a camera. But it was just to go out on the street and start finding what your identity is in front of a camera because essentially its yourself but its yourself plus about 15% because you just want to sparkle a bit more. Well you’ve got to kind of find your balance with that you don’t know how it is just talking to this inanimate object which doesn’t give you any feedback so you’ve got to, you’ve just got to have time practising your skill. So if you are going out, I was in Sydney at the time and I did another presenting course and I can remember we went to Paddington Markets and it’s just full of life and colour there and I interviewed this guy with such a character who was making clothes. Again I think I had that on my show for about six years and it was one of the first things I ever did. But it is those threads of when I wanted to be a presenter when I was 15 or 16 that kind of still carry me through. I think it was that people interaction that I loved so this Paddington Markets that I had just done one Saturday afternoon as part of this course was kind of evidence of why I loved it but evidence of the skills that I needed to practice to make it as a living for myself but also just a constant reminder of why I was doing it for the times that you do come up against constant rejection. I just invested in anything that I thought was going to help me get to where I wanted to get to. So I did acting lessons as well and even though I think that presenting and acting are distinctly different because one you are taking on a different role the other is you are essentially being yourself there is some skill that acting gives you that you can just take whatever you need from it and that can be lessons in spontaneity, lessons in self esteem or just being on stage or the biggest you that you can be which you can then take in whichever capacity you need as a presenter. But it’s just that constant practice and there’s the belief there and the vision there and then it’s just taking action which you can do now I suppose which might help you get to where you believe you want to get to.

Kevin: Where there points when you were making those investments probably going into debt that you then thought is this a wise decision?

Abi: The belief and vision has always been bigger than the doubts and I think that’s what has carried me through. There has been times where of course I’ve questioned it and as I’ve got older and people have gone into a job after university and have gone up the ladder and they are having that security and they are having that stability investing in material objects and I would have a brilliant job and then some time when I wasn’t working and those doubts would come in absolutely because you don’t have the security in this industry quite so much. But I think okay what else can I do and that would often come up and what do I love about presenting that I might be able to transfer into another skill that might give me a greater sense of security and then I would have that and I would brainstorm it and I would speak to my mum about it and then the next morning I would wake up and think what can I do towards presenting today. And I think that was always it. I think the one, the doubts and the action that might come from the doubts were all based on fear. All based on fear and the stuff where I could have been with a friend and having an amazing time I could be having an amazing meal, I could be doing a brilliant run, in those moments of real positivity and feeling a sense of yes you can do whatever you want that was when I came back to presenting and they were just bigger. The thoughts, the visions, the moments of being really positive it drowned out all the other things which felt then quite small. And that still is constantly just checking in with that and just making sure that I’m listening to a bit of a bigger voice or the part of me that just really loves what I do and believes in it and to not get dragged down to okay this next job is only for four shows so what happens at the end of that. You know and that is the nature of the beast and that is just something that I have actually had to learn and that didn’t come natural to me at the start, not someone that can be quite kind of organised and like certain things in place in terms of a career I had to learn how to ride that path.

Kevin: You might as well just carry on then – tell me how you did learn.
Abi: You know it was a bit of a lesson. I think the first one of children’s BBC where I went back about three or four times I thought this is easy my first ever job and it’s just going to be handed to me on a plate. When it didn’t happen it was devastating. I can remember just completely knocked me. I just didn’t expect, I think actually if I’m really honest up to that point I hadn’t had that much rejection in what I wanted to do because a lot of it came into the work I put in would be the result I got out whether that was A Levels, whether that was any sporting achievement. Whereas this I had put myself into it and I hadn’t got the result I wanted and that was quite unknown to me so I knew then that I had some serious work to do because I was just beside myself and it has got easier.

Kevin: Did you think about jacking it in at that stage?

Abi: Weirdly enough I was like right the next morning but I knew I had to sort of shed some tears first and know that I had to feel sorry for myself a bit and then I was like I am going to get the next one now. Which again I really nearly did, again I got shortlisted to it. I think it was being shortlisted at that stage that made me think right I’ve got some potential here. I wasn’t quite getting the job which was hard but there was enough to keep me going. So how have I learnt to deal with it? I suppose through other aspects of my life like I’m massively into yoga so all of those sorts of things where I just try and go okay what would my yoga self say – that doesn’t always happen and believe me it usually takes quite a few bits of anger and feeling sorry for myself to go well my yoga self would say that might not be right for whatever reason or it might be more right for someone else at this point and just go and do something that can fill myself back up again whatever that happens to be seeing a certain person, doing a certain thing. And then learning from whatever I need to learn from and then taking it and moving it forward.

Kevin: It sounds like you blow off steam, let your emotions get out there by the sounds of it and then start asking yourself questions to get through that stage where you are just [10:54].

Abi: Yeah and usually I run, that is probably the time where I most need yoga but that is the time when I can’t do it. But usually I have to go and yeah pound the streets. The time where I have to speak to someone about it and vent my fury and feel sorry for myself has got less. That time has got less. I will always if it’s something that I really wanted and believed that I could really do then obviously that rejection is a bit harder so I’ll be a bit kinder to myself and I’ll register the disappointment is there. You know a lot of this is so self driven on what you want to do. There may be an agent or a mentor that is helping you but a lot of it is coming from yourself so I’m not going to contact the juices when I actually feel really disappointed I’m going to go and do something lovely and whatever that happens to be sit in a park with a book or be a girl and go shopping or whatever it happens to be I’ll do something where I just give myself some time off and just allow myself to feel disappointed and won’t be homing in on the presenting at that moment and then if it’s the next day, hopefully it will be, usually it is now that I feel better okay I’m back in next step move forward and usually there is a big disappointment, something else will happen quite soon afterwards when a show hasn’t been recommissioned that I’ve been oh no really – then it can be quite a short time afterwards that a phone call will happen about something else. And I suppose those sort of experiences have helped me let go of disappointments.

Kevin: So it helps give you a bit of faith that okay that’s fine as long as I’m pushing forward, as long I’m being the best of who I can be all the time then it’s having that confidence to know that something will be around the corner.

Abi: Yeah absolutely. And you know we were mentioning before the support system comes in so you know with great friends and great family those sorts of things just help remind you to keep at it. Sometimes you just need that encouragement when you are facing those doubts or those questions. You have got to have those people around you as well. But it is it’s like you say having a lot of faith that the next thing is around the corner but its transferring that faith into action again as well. And sometimes you just need a bit of time off to get yourself back on to that positive plane and then you can take it again.

Kevin: You’ve spoken and you kept using phrases belief and vision can you just describe what those are to you.

Abi: Yeah I think the belief is something that’s, it’s so cheesy and cliché, but something that kind of speaks to you in a moment of when you’re calm. Whether you’re calm or really, really excited and something amazing has happened I know they are two ends of the spectrum but at that moment where those little niggles just isn’t there and you think I absolutely can do this and it’s what I want to do. Why do I want to do it? Yeah that’s the reasons why. Can I do? Absolutely why can’t I not. I tune in to it at the times when I haven’t got a job and the next one maybe a week away it maybe a month away and I just tune in to that knowledge again and its somewhere usually in the pit of my stomach. And I also tune in to it when I have got a job and I’m about to do something important. So when just recently we finished presenting the Olympics and I had to interview Seb Coe, had to interview Dame Kelly Holmes so big moments in front of a live audience thousands of people. Now those moments again just when the director or the PA that does all the counting down says coming to you in a minute again I just take that little moment it could be one second and it can be ten seconds just where tune in to that kind of belief wherever that happens to be again and that interview often will then go quite well. So it has its place in whatever is in your heart I think. Whatever you absolutely love doing and then you just have to feed it with affirmations if it happens to be that, doing something, with achieving something and it doesn’t actually have to be really relevant to the presenting job sometimes I do lots of running events or whatever it happens to be if I’ve set myself a goal, if I’ve then achieved that well that just feeds into that belief system which will then help me with those immediate moments of presenting.

Kevin: It’s about creating a feeling, it doesn’t have to be related to great I did a really good job there it’s just about getting a feel good feeling. I think you’ve heard me speak about a lady called Fiona Campbell she speaks about state; she refers to it as state, getting yourself in a good state. That is exactly what you’re doing isn’t it.

Abi: I don’t like doing anything until I’m in a good state. I am really geeky and there are certain things that are going to make me feel good and having an amazing coffee, I spend probably three quarters of my salary in coffee shops. But I’ll do that first thing in the morning usually or go for a run first thing in the morning or do yoga first thing. And I’ll get myself into that state and then I’ll send emails, make calls, do an interview in front of the camera, do a piece to camera whatever it happens to be. And I always think I’m wasting too much time that little voice will come up and go you don’t need to spend an hour of your morning doing this but I absolutely do. The emails are effortless to write, phone calls flow. If I do it when I’m in any kind of state which is anxious, which is worried about where the next job is it just doesn’t work. And moments where I’ve had interviews where I’m not present and I’m thinking about something else and I’m worrying about something it just is a chore and I’m not focussed and with interviews it is so not about me, it’s so what I want to draw out of the person. Now if I’m not in a good state there is no way I can just hear those little nuances in their voice which is touch on a passion which I can ask the next thing about to draw out more of that human story. If I’m just not good, I’m just not receptive to those moments and I’ll come out. You just know the moments yourself whatever your job happens to be where it just flows, where you don’t feel like you’re working. It can be like a text message I will find really hard to write even to a friend and I’m re-writing it ten times. I’m like what am I doing. It is usually because there is something going on in me that is just not in a good state. So I won’t answer the phone if I don’t feel like I’m in a good, yeah in that real sense of me that is bubbling over I suppose with life. And it doesn’t always, you can’t make sure it is there every day but you can do what you can especially in those important moments where you take control of it.

Kevin: Yeah but the key thing is it sounds like you’ve learnt to listen out for it in an inward is what I mean. And how long, just out of interest, how long did it take you to kind of work out your routine because it sounds like you’ve worked out this routine now which is right you get up you’ve realised that for you there are certain places, certain things you can do to work you up into this situation where you are feeling great.

Abi: Yeah constantly. I probably knew that you go on again what makes you feel good and you just store it, you just try and bottle it and go okay that really works I need to use that but and I’ll adjust it from day to day. I mean there will be some sort of set thing but if I know that I spent too much time working at home yesterday doing admin then I know the next morning it’s got to be out and about and it’s got to be connecting with people. And at other times where I felt like I might have done a 15 hour day on the Olympics the next morning I know actually it’s going to take a tiny bit of just reconnecting inwardly so I’ll adjust it depending on usually what’s proceeded it but I constantly rework it but I’ll just make notes of what sort of what worked. I’ll constantly sort of reshift it to whatever I feel like is most needed but there is just a knowledge of what makes me feel good which I’m sure everyone has to a certain degree of what is going to make them be in their most vital place.

Kevin: I’m sure they do but I think it’s really interesting to hear you describe how much probably time, energy and importance you place on feeling that out. And realising the connection between how you are feeling and what you need to do to keep it all, it’s really interesting and I think the other thing that came through there was the fact that you are in control of it. You don’t just dismiss it; you don’t just go oh well I feel a bit crap. You go oh I’m not feeling in a really positive mood right now, okay that’s fine I can deal with this I’ve got tools I can go. Just talk about that because I think a lot of people just go oh well I’m having a crap day period that’s it nothing I can do about it.

Abi: Yeah and I don’t like using the word hate but I hate it if I feel crappy so, and I won’t allow myself to feel it for too long. I go okay that’s the situation what do I need to do now. I just suppose it comes from experience I just know that things just happen; they just flow when I’m feeling better so I’ll dedicate a lot of time to it. Like I said before sometimes think should I be spending this long doing it but then the time it takes me to do the actual work part then is reduced massively. So.

Kevin: You’ve hit the nail on the head haven’t you.

Abi: Because if I don’t do it and I think oh I’ve got so much to do and I’ve got to contact this person and I need to send this through I’ve got this idea to send off for a TV show, I need to research this and I’m just feeling all cloudy and slightly negative and just not within my body and within myself at that moment. They are just a struggle. If I know that I spend an hour, I know there are sort of echoes that I am reiterating here but wherever it happens to be, whether it’s physically, whether it’s surrounding yourself with friends, whether it’s just taking a moment to meditate or do some yoga. And if I haven’t got the time, if I literally think I’ve got to be somewhere at 8 in the morning and I don’t want to get up and do all this at 6 then I’ll just be quite calculated and know that I’ve got a little Vespa and I might have to go into Soho and it might take me 20 minutes and I’ll think right in that 20 minute journey it could be as simple as just thinking of everything, every moment that I’ve loved this week. And the more moments that I think of that I’ve gone I loved that, that was brilliant, that worked. Suddenly I am just in a roll with good thoughts, get off my bike park it up usually then I go into a little bay and there is a space right there for me like brilliant and again I can deal with something quite quickly if I know that I’ve got to get myself in that state. I’m just aware that I don’t like to feel not good and I refuse to let myself speak about not being feeling very good for very long. Sometimes it’s an important point and I’ll need to talk it through with someone so I’m not being unrealistic, those times when you are feeling rubbish can be constructive if you can think usually not in the time, usually in the aftermath you think right why wasn’t I thinking good and can I do something about it. At the time you might just feel rubbish and you definitely don’t want to do anything about it you want to follow in feeling rubbish. But I’m aware that if I say one thing that is judgemental about someone or judgemental about myself I can just feel it in my whole psyche and being, it just weighs me down and when I’m 5′ 1.5 I can’t have anything to weigh me down. So I suppose I’m just a bit strict with myself and think okay if it’s something important that I’m not feeling good about let’s allow myself to feel it and then let’s work the way through it. If it’s just that I’m being silly about something then I will then get on my Vespa and do those things, those tools that are there to go that’s just a ridiculous thought I’m just feeling rubbish about whatever it happens to be, that can go straight away. So I’ll be aware of the differences in those feelings.

Kevin: But I think the key thing is it doesn’t matter whatever that mood is you address it don’t you so that you can work through it rather than just trying to almost sweep it under the carpet and pretend that it doesn’t exist.

Abi: Yeah. Sometimes it could be that I’m just giving myself too much of a hard time you know. I can be pushing it too much and trying too much. I remember I was doing the beach volleyball at the Olympics and it was a really late finish and then I had to be at hockey at sort of 5 in the morning and I got back home and I suddenly started to feel negative about stuff and at that moment it was just pure exhaustion it was nothing else. But sometimes you think well why am I feeling bad should I not and I’m like right I’m just really tired. I can remember I just put the veledrome action on that was on TV, oh gosh there was just one amazing performance after another. I was probably just looking for something without realising it that was going to take me out of myself and my own head and suddenly I’m watching Laura Trott and she is unbelievable and I’m hearing how she was born with a collapsed lung and I’m literally crying my eyes out, totally crying and it was just so therapeutic and after I stopped that I was oh gosh amazing I’m going to get myself a takeaway and go to bed. And actually it doesn’t need to be anything other than I need some more sleep, I just needed to lie on the sofa and have a good cry, I was going to do it in front of some chick movie but actually it was much better watching it from some amazing female athletes in the veledrome. So I suppose sometimes you need to really deal with it other times you’ve just got to let yourself do what you’ve got to do whether that’s just sitting on the sofa and crying, I think it is just trying to be aware of those different moods and just not letting them take over.

Kevin: And that’s the key thing again you worked through it, you addressed it you didn’t just try and work away from it and just hope that by side stepping it it was just going to magically disappear which could have easily then gone into okay you would have tried to have gone to sleep but you wouldn’t have been able to sleep because your mind would have been churning. Because you’ve gone through all of this practice over the years and you’ve listened to what works for you, even what you were saying when you went home and you thought fine I’ll go for a chick flick because that will just get my emotions going and it will help work it through so you already had something in place to try and get those emotions out. To calm yourself down and that’s a great lesson for people. Even though I’m really enjoying myself talking I’m going to false myself to draw this to a close. I would like you to finish off by giving people one thing maybe they could try and apply in their own lives to maybe make them a bit more conscious about how they are feeling and the impact that they could maybe have upon that, the control they’ve possibly got that they don’t realise right now. What’s maybe an exercise that you would recommend them to start doing?

Abi: I kind of like what you have said about your state. I think when you get yourself in that state whatever it is that is true to each person and you know what’s true to you because its whatever makes you feel good, its whatever makes you happy whether it’s one cup of coffee before the children wake up or if it’s just I don’t know going out and walking for 15 minutes if you’re not a runner, whatever it happens to be to get you in that state. Because I think once you are in that state then you’re in control of that day. If you’re just allowing yourself to wake up and think oh I didn’t get enough sleep I feel pretty rubbish then I just think the day is throwing stuff at you and you are constantly trying to serve a backhand and then trying to go for the volley and it’s all just going a bit wrong. But I think if you just get up, I’m a big believer, you know you might be a night person so it could be setting that before you go to sleep but I always think and I would say just getting yourself and if you are not quite sure what gets you into that state I would spend the next week just sort of making notes of the times where you are not sort of infiltrated with sort of tiny little niggly doubts. Because although they are small things and they feel quite niggly and they feel what they say but if you try and get into a bigger space where you are oh this feels good and it could just be sitting in I don’t know in your conservatory for like five minutes and you are like looking out at the view and you are like that feels right, that’s just got me into a good space. And then from there you’ve set a tone. Go back to it throughout the day, check in, put yourself back in that space and I just think the rest of the day goes well. And it can’t help but have a knock on effect for you creating your reality because you’ve created your mood and usually there’s a direct relation between your mood and what happens in the real world that is your life. So I think that would be my point just start the day or finish the day if you are a night person or morning person in that feeling of content and that feeling of passion for what you want the next day to deliver and then you know enjoying and celebrating those moments where you see an element of that in your daily life and you are like yeah then you will know you are on the right path.

Kevin: Abi Griffiths thank you very much for coming on the Maximise Potential Podcast.

Abi: You’re very welcome.

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Kevin: Abi Griffiths thank you very much for sharing such an honest and detailed interview. You’ve left us with so many points to draw from such as the importance of being present, not being too hard on yourself, making sure you always work through your emotions and the most important message in my opinion finding your own technique that will enable you to get into a good state. If anyone would like to learn more about Abi please visit her website at abigriffiths.com or follow her on Twitter at abigriffiths1. Thanks again Abi and we look forward with interest to following you and your career.

So this episode has been put live on September 19th 2012 to mark our very first Maximise Potential Live leadership event. The event is being held at London City Point building and will be attended by over 100 senior executives and managers who will all be given the opportunity to listen to key note speeches from several of the guests who have appeared on the podcast. We will make sure that we release a special edition podcast in the near future to commemorate this event so please keep a look out for that.

Thank you all as always for your continued support and a massive thanks to the Jenrick Recruitment Group for enabling this podcast to be produced. Please remember that if you are considering a career move then please come over and visit the Jenrick website to find out how their team of consultants can help you. That’s all for today here’s ‘Ghosts’ from Xerxes to finish with. Bye bye for now.

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About the Author

Hi, I'm Tom Burkinshaw, I co-produce the Maximise Your Potential Podcast and Website and my goal is to help as many people as possible be successful in life, careers and business, by offering free coaching and mentoring through a series of unique interviews from inspiring people who all display exceptional self-belief, mental toughness and desire to achieve. Thank you for taking the time to visit Maximise Your Potential!