Transcript: Chris Brisley – Take cahallenge (Max#38)


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 38 of the Maximise Potential Podcast. Have you ever taken the time to imagine how you would react if your career prematurely ended or your house and all your life savings were lost or if your health was taken away? Having the strength of character to rebuild your life from any one of those extreme examples is a virtue that none of us ever knows if we pocess until that moment arises. However now imagine if all of those happen to you in a period of your life that spanned less than a decade. In today’s interview we meet Chris Brisley someone who has lived through this exact experience. In this very honest interview Chris recounts how he responded to those challenges sharing what he learnt about his own character and explaining the lessons he now applies in his life to help him through challenges when faced with them now.


Chris I would like to welcome you to the Maximise Potential podcast.

Chris: Thanks very much.

Kevin: We’ve got a lovely personal story that we are going to be sharing with the audience in terms of the life story events that have very much led you to where you are today in your life and running an incredible cause which is giving back and inspiring other people on a daily basis. What we will do is before we start talking about this wonderful concept that you have let’s take people back. Realistically your life started with the navy wasn’t it?

Chris: Yes I was in the Royal Navy at 17.

Kevin: So let’s start off from there because I think that’s where your journey began.

Chris: Well I joined the Royal Navy as you said at 17 where I spent nine years of my life, an incredible experience. The training was superb, I met some amazing people and realised at a very early age what my potential was and that is something that the armed forces can do for you, the training is incredible.

Kevin: Go on what do you mean by that that is an interesting way of saying it.

Chris: Well I actually left school with no qualifications what so ever and I think maybe I was a little immature, I was at a good school but I didn’t realise my potential at school I realised my potential in the armed forces because they do literally push you to the limit both physically and mentally as well as surrounding you with like minded people.

Kevin: So by getting pushed is the catalyst for you.

Chris: Absolutely by giving you a challenge and making you realise mentally and physically that you have taken yourself to the limit and then you can go beyond that limit and then each time you do that you improve. Now when you are quite young that starts to sit home after a few weeks, months, years.

Kevin: You said it began to help you realise what your true potential was. But what did that mean, what was that physically and mentally doing to you?

Chris: Physically I knew I could push myself further than I had ever done but I knew that mentally I was intelligent but I didn’t think I was at school. And then realised that I was intelligent I could actually do things that at school were unobtainable, as I thought they were unobtainable, but that was just not true at all.

Kevin: And it just really what? I took away the fear?

Chris: Yeah, yeah it completely took away the fear. I’ve got no fear about who I am or failing, let’s call it that. I had failed many times at school but it was no longer about failing it was about learning from, lets if we want to call it failure, learning from the fail and then saying right how do I do it better next time, how do I then improve on that and eventually do pass or qualify or get better or get a higher score or run quicker or jump higher. It was always something you were after.

Kevin: And you just looked at it then as just something that was just a learning experience as opposed to whether it is success or failure.

Chris: Yep absolutely no more no less. There are always options but ultimately there are options you don’t like and options you do like. But that is not what it is all about it is options of what you want and what you don’t want. And I didn’t want one thing but I definitely wanted another thing and obviously that sometimes for me involved more failures than pass and I eventually kept going until I did get. And that is what I did realise do not give in. Never give in. My little mantra to myself all the time whereas I did give in at school in the forces I didn’t give in and I very quickly started to rise through the ranks and obtain qualifications. I even redid my GCSE’s at 23 years old how bizarre is that. Why would you want to do that? Well I realised my brain worked and I thought well why not.

Kevin: And that was something obviously that almost felt like unfinished business so I assume you wanted to prove it to yourself that actually yeah it was environment it wasn’t me and I can actually achieve these things.

Chris: Yeah and strangely I did it with other guys as well. We all thought well if you are doing it why don’t we all do it together and we did. So you end up adopting those small teams.

Kevin: You then had nine wonderful years in the Navy experiencing all manner of things. I am guessing as far as you were concerned that’s it this is your life, this is your career, this is where you are going to be for the rest of your life or the rest of your working life or predominant.

Chris: I had signed a 22 year contract. At the time it was called open engagement, we signed a 20 year contract and do you know what by the time I was 19/21 I was what they call a lifer. Absolutely loved it. There was always challenge. Didn’t matter what I did there was something to challenge me nothing was ever easy. The Navy absolutely did that for me. The armed forces does that for you. We did something called Perishers which is an extremely difficult course where submarine captains or want to be captains have to try and pass and it has been on television many times. The stress they go through is enormous. Now I was just one of the operations guys on there and I would see what was possible. Human beings could put themselves through enormous amounts of stress with very little sleep. And just seeing people go through that makes you realise well hold on a minute they haven’t had much different lives than I have so if they can do that why can’t I do that. And I really started to believe that potentially that would be something I would do until a year later.

Kevin: Until a year later. That is lovely point to bring us on to something that completely changed that map.

Chris: I was a nuclear sub mariner something very special, there aren’t many of them and one of the things you have to do in there is called ‘the tank’ and the tank is the world’s deepest manmade platform for doing submarine escape and that involves some quite serious medicals to go through and you have to do that every few years. And I failed one of those medicals due to my lung function. Normally I ran all over the place, I was really fit, I was one of the fittest guys on board but due to my lung function if potentially there was a fire on board I could become a hazard to somebody else. I could potentially become overcome by smoke and instead of helping people I could become a hindrance so I was made medically unfit. In fact by the time I left I was what is called PUNS – Permanently Unfit for Naval Service, so then discharged for life.

Kevin: Wow how did that hit you?

Chris: Hugely, absolutely massive impact. My entire mapped out life never mind career was gone. And even now just saying that actually does touch on me. Very quickly I had to try and turn that around and I looked for different things to do. And back then we didn’t really have a resettlement process as we have today. It is still not amazing but I had to look for something else and the first thing I found was the London Marathon.

Kevin: Go on.

Chris: Obviously there was apparently something wrong with my lungs that I didn’t know about. Yes I had mild asthma but I needed to prove to myself that there was nothing physically wrong with me. Yes I had had a lot of problems with it but I needed to prove that I could push beyond that.

Kevin: Or was there a bit of you wanted to, in the nicest possible way, stick two fingers up at the establishment to say you were wrong?

Chris: In the worst possible way I really wanted to prove everybody wrong. Yes you have told me I am medically unfit and I was literally classed as disabled and medically unfit. 33% I was actually measured to be 33% disabled. So quite annoying to have to be told that at 27/28 years old. So yeah no I just started training and I chose the National Asthma Campaign as my charity so I thought I would raise money for it as well. And I did it, I broke four hours in my first ever run, first ever marathon I did a 3:58/3:57 I think it was. And vowed never to do one again. It was an awful idea but the whole process that I went through the challenge, the run, the training that I did with friends was fantastic. Absolutely loved the process. The running the marathon itself I thought was shocking and I did what I set out to achieve which was to prove there was nothing wrong with me.

Kevin: Yeah I am very interested to understand that period between being discharged and finding the marathon. I am sure even if it was a short period in terms of whether it was months or whatever what was going through your mind mentally?

Chris: Completely lost. You have got to understand that the armed forces is like a family you are completely protected in every possible way. You are surrounded in cotton wool 24hours a day 365 days a year. That whole family had gone, all of it. And the day you hand over your naval career is also quite harrowing. You have to hand in your ID card. Because I was permanently unfit for naval service I was not even allowed to be in the reserves so that meant I had to hand in most of my uniform. So literally my entire career, almost a decade had gone. It was extremely difficult for me and I sat at home wondering what I was going to do. I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with my life. I had no concept of what to do in civilian life. And the only thing I did know was sport; it was the only thing I knew. So I threw myself into doing high board diving, coaching kids, this sort of stuff. It doesn’t really get any money but I needed to find something to take up my mind otherwise I literally would have been sat on the sofa.

Kevin: Interesting and I am just trying to get my head around this in terms of the structure of how you went about this. But I have no idea where I am going to start so what I am going to do is pick probably the one certainty that I have got in my life and just try and at least use that as an anchor point and start building again from there. Would that be a correct way of?

Chris: In a way yes. Strangely I did turn my back on quite a lot of my armed forces friends because I felt well I am out now they are not going to want to know me. Thankfully they didn’t turn their back on me and many of them still know me today. But I did have a civilian group of friends and they were all in the diving and gymnastics side of life so that was something that I heavily threw myself into. I needed to find something else. Almost like another family if you like. And sports seemed to be that avenue and obviously that was also what gave me challenge in the forces. So I just went to that next avenue that I could find. I can’t be that sort of guy that sits on the sofa and does nothing all day.

Kevin: And that at least started that rebuilding process for you.

Chris: Absolutely, absolutely that was it that did it for me.

Kevin: Just so I can double check if you were forced in that situation again do you think that’s good sound advice that you would look at for yourself again which is yeah if your whole life gets taken away then find that constant, find the anchor point that you feel most comfortable with and just start rebuilding from there again.

Chris: Yeah really important and also don’t sit thinking, don’t sit being alone, be with your friends. The worse things that people tend to do is not say anything and the best thing you could possibly do is get out there. Absolutely get out there. In fact one big thing that sticks out in my mind was the day I decided I was going to sign on. So went to sign on and go through this whole dole experience. It was absolutely shocking to stand in a queue and then to go and look at jobs that are around. I just couldn’t believe it. That just wasn’t for me and I just couldn’t put myself in that position. I literally did just go out and just go and find work. I painted warehouses, I drove vans, I did anything to get the, whether it was the same amount of pay or not that meant nothing to me I just needed to do something else. So I had lots of things. I knew I needed enough money to get me to the pool and do a bit of swimming and do a bit of diving and teach kids how to dive. I had to find other things to keep that other constant going. But there was no way I was going to sign on the dole. It just wasn’t an option for me. Like I said to you before there was two options I knew what one option I wanted to do and I knew what I didn’t want to do. And I don’t know how many times I failed going towards the option I wanted to do I just kept going in that direction.

Kevin: And then your interest in sport then led you into what you believed was then going to be the first stage of your career moving on from the armed forces and that was I think you said opening up a sports shop.

Chris: Yeah I opened a sports shop. I thought once again I wanted to be in diving and I knew I wasn’t a very good diver I got quite a lot of medals Master level and all this sort of stuff but I wasn’t any good but what I did turn out to be quite good was teaching kids. I got eight year olds at silver medals in nationals in my first year. So I thought that’s what I am going to do that is going to be my career. And unfortunately there wasn’t a huge amount of money at the time I was paid about £3.50 an hour and this is only a decade ago so I opened a sports shop. And that way I thought I am complimenting two different things.

Kevin: Natural progression absolutely.

Chris: I could see there was no true sports shop in Plymouth where I was living at the time. So I would open a whole sport shop which actually sold swimming gear and running gear. Things that people really needed to do sports.

Kevin: And what happened?

Chris: It lasted about nine months. I knew nothing about business, I knew nothing about finance and it crashed around my ears within nine months. The money I had been given for being medically discharged had gone, the bailiffs came round and took everything from my house, I lost absolutely everything I ever had. So within 18 months to two years of leaving I had not only lost my career and lost every penny I ever had.

Kevin: Could you ever have envisaged that your life was going to go through that sort of turmoil in just a short space.

Chris: No absolutely not. Do you know what so many things go through your head. The loss of that I actually lost a bit of self respect for myself because I didn’t actually know what I was going to do then. I thought oh my god everyone that knows me has now just seen this huge loss. But at the end of the day I still now know all those people incredibly. But yeah no that was quite difficult for me. That was a very difficult time in fact. And it isn’t about the money it is all about self respect and the respect you think that people are going to have for you. But I can even remember now not having a clue what I was going to do next.

Kevin: How did you pull yourself out of it? That is obviously the crucial bit.

Chris: Well I had a lot of friends and even with the sports shop I generated a lot of new friends. So that is one thing I did realise so what had I thrown myself at them my friends. So I hadn’t done something other people had done, I hadn’t sat on my own. And I was working for lots of these friends and some of these friends I owed money to from the business. Now despite the fact the business went down I still felt personally responsible that I owed these people so I went and worked for them and worked the debt off. And bizarrely though I could see that they had lots of problems. Now I knew a little bit about IT when I was in the navy it was one of the jobs they taught me so I started saying well why don’t you do it this way. And they were well yeah we could do. So I did, I started doing little things for these bits of companies building spreadsheets putting IT systems in, adding computers I just seemed to know more about computers than everyone else around me which I thought was very strange I thought everyone knew about computers. And that is what I started doing and so the next one, and then the next minute one of these guys went well if you could do this for me I would pay you this much money. Really oh my god that is so much more money than I have been getting for months. So I went yeah brilliant let’s do it. I said you do understand I am not like qualified or anything I’m not like a consultant, all these names you see when you go for one of those jobs, not that I had even looked at one of those jobs I was into sport. I was a sports person.

Kevin: So in your mind still you are not an IT professional at all you are still a sports man.

Chris: I am going to be sports, sports are what I do. Yeah I need some vehicle to make me do sport but yes right I need to do this IT thing that pays. So I am going to do that IT thing and then I am going to do my sport.

Kevin: And this is where it started building from.

Chris: Absolutely. After a year I was still doing it. I actually got a salary out of this it was quite good. More money than I was in the navy within 18 months, this is bizarre. And I was still doing my sport and it was still going and then it just seemed to get bigger. It kept snowballing. I was loving it, I was really having a good time.

Kevin: That is the important bit. I am just going to, I know I tend to do this anyway but you’ll touch on something and keep talking and I will take a mental note of something because I want to go back to it. The people you owed money to ended up being the ones that actually were the catalyst for you forming your brand new career.

Chris: Yeah how bizarre is that.

Kevin: That is interesting. There are some examples in there first of all about the integrity that they saw a side to you that even when faced with your darkest hours you were willing to still stand up and be counted in those moments not turn your back. Secondly as well you were able to see outside of your world and see into their world and it would have been very easy to have been completely consumed in what was going on in your world at that particular time and that seemed to act as a bit of catalyst for really helping all of these opportunities. To then just coming into play.

Chris: I did see opportunities I started to realise again hold on my brain does work again. I started to see opportunities, I started to see solutions and then I kept learning about things. And why do you keep doing things like that? That takes 15 times longer if you do it this way you can do it in half the time. And as far as I am concerned I didn’t know everything about it and I thought if someone really knew what they were doing they could do it even quicker than that so why aren’t we doing it that way. So you suggest it to them and I tell you what I will do it for nothing to prove it. So that is what I was doing. That is how I sort of started I was doing things for nothing. So in a warehouse for instance I put in, I networked a load of computers in my spare time for nothing.

Kevin: But I think that is a lovely lesson for people to know so it was very much, there is an expression we have used actually keeping yourself, or making yourself open to opportunities. Sounds like that is very much the approach that you took.

Chris: Yeah no very much so, very much so.

Kevin: Not thinking about what you are going to get in return.

Chris: I don’t know. At no point was I thinking in a certain way. I have got to reiterate that what I was really thinking about was what was I trying to do. At the end of the day I needed to achieve this sporting goal there was my carrot, that’s what I enjoy doing, I believed that I was really good at it. The money was rubbish but I was really good at this other thing that seemed to generate a little bit of money enough to be able to support that other thing. So what I had to do was make myself really good at this thing so I could support the other thing. One thing lead to the other. One thing was definitely the road to the carrot. That is what I kept believing. So I needed to get really good at this in order to deliver that. So that was my focus.

Kevin: What I like though is even though you knew that, let’s call one the cash cow, one was the IT element which was leading to the vocation. Instead of looking at that with a distain and saying I am not going to get emotionally involved in it so I am not going to get passionate about it you sound far from that.

Chris: Oh I definitely started to realise that I really got emotionally involved in it. I really started to love it. It started to be one o’clock in the morning and I would still be studying about it. So literally to the point of I’d say yeah no we could defiantly do that. Next minute I am reading Windows networking until two, three o’clock in the morning so I would know how to do it and then I would come in next day and I would go and do it. Was I trying to do something for them or for me? Probably both to be fair. I wanted to try and prove to someone that I could do something really quick and if you think about that that was no different than what I used to do in the Navy. Someone gave me a challenge I could see everything set in front of me but this time I didn’t have anything set in front of me so what I started doing was setting things in front of me. So I started putting that structure in front of myself and I could see that the IT industry had Microsoft Certifications and accounting certifications so I started seeing that structure. And the next minute I started following it without realising what I was doing. But I was absolutely passionate about trying to deliver and problem solve.

Kevin: How do you feel when you solve a problem?

Chris: Unbelievable, absolutely love it. That’s why I do what I do today. And I still do it for that today. I do not do what I do for money I do it because I like to solve problems.

Kevin: All this momentum started happening.

Chris: Yeah, doc com boom all going crazy.

Kevin: And growing.

Chris: It just kept snowballing. It generated into a business, not one that I ever started, not one that I even consciously tried to build going all over the place. Bizarrely two or three weeks later I was offered a contract and I moved to London. Moved from Devon sleepy hollow and I went all the way to London and restarted my life and I ended up working for a number of years and it was just going incredibly well. It was fantastic.

Kevin: And so where did that go?

Chris: 17th February 2002 it all changed.

Kevin: Not that the date is engrained at all.

Chris: At seven o’clock at night I was training for the London Triathlon I was near Baker Street cycled out on the road and Porsche 911 hit me head on. Everything stopped. Once again life changed, completely changed. L4 – S1 in my spine the discs completely herniated, I am covered in scars. My almeners, the funny bones, I had to have both my arms operated. My nerve ends now in different parts of my body on my arms. Upper thoracic whiplash. I just could go on it completely changed me. What I didn’t realise was how bad I was and it took two or three months for that to sink in. All the injuries didn’t impact me at once but on the 4th July my back completely went and I just couldn’t get out of bed one day. It was astronomically huge, couldn’t work basically. So now my other thing that I had thrown my life into was completely gone and I was having my own crash but for the wrong reasons.

Kevin: Wow how bad was it?

Chris: It took me four and a half years to recover.

Kevin: And what did the doc say to you at the time?

Chris: There was no, I was just talking about running and they went you’ve completely got to forget about running this just isn’t something that you need to focus on anymore.

Kevin: It’s just not going to happen.

Chris: Yep forget that.

Kevin: So they said you couldn’t run, you couldn’t cycle; forget about obviously the London triathlon but no more London marathons.

Chris: No more running in a day which is what I did, it’s just how I existed. I just loved to run. It was where I got away. It is where I went. So all of a sudden I had no IT to focus on because I just literally couldn’t work for them. Although I was still trying to help them because I was one of the main project guys and then they just reassured me we can do it without you so that was it, it was gone and I had no way of trying to deliver some of the stuff that I did. I went and employed some guys and thought well I’ve still got some contracts I need to try and keep some of this money coming in, in order to live. And then I started realising well I don’t need to solve some of these problems because they don’t even exist I now have new problems and the new problem is get fixed. Get mobile get up. But I didn’t completely let go of my IT and I thought the only way to do that is to go and employ some guys so I did. I set up a new company and while I was broken we created a new company and we called it Experta.

Kevin: And so before we talk about that it sounds to me that applying lessons that you had learnt at various stages of your previous “crashes” sounds like this time there was no dwelling, there was no distraction.

Chris: None what so ever. I had learnt this time.

Kevin: I was going to say go on talk a bit more about this because let’s face it this sounds bigger than all of the other stuff put together.

Chris: This was monumental this was something; this was now me physically and mentally had been affected because I now could not get up. I now could not walk around without masses, 7200 milligrams of drugs a day I was taking in order to switch off the pain receptors in my body so that I could actually get up again. It was just huge. So the levels of pain were enormous. They literally were enormous I couldn’t even grip properly, couldn’t even hold a bag with a rucksack in it. You know it was just incredible so sports was gone, that was absolutely gone from my head. I still had an IT business that still was doing well and I needed that to keep going I couldn’t just let go of everything like I had in the past. But then I kept getting these distractions about people saying no you forget about everything you need to do this. And I was like no way I have managed to achieve quite a lot in my last five or six years or rebuilding this and rebuilding that I can definitely do it. I did I literally had to just sit back disseminate everything go right this is what is important this is what I need to handle first. On all these different areas of your life physically, professionally, mentally. There were so many different things to tackle and what I didn’t realise was how mad the mental impact was going to have on me over the next few years.

Kevin: Go on explain that a bit.

Chris: The medication was enormous and one of the problems I had was trying to solve some of the physical problems were a lot more complicated. Some of the medical advances weren’t obtainable to me very easily through the NHS so I tried to use my medical healthcare and trying to get that was extremely difficult. As they usually do they kept saying that this was a preconceived condition as in something I had from maybe when I was a diver which was bizarre I had been hit by a car. And I was literally in the office spending half my day writing 16 page faxes to this healthcare company to eventually, eventually ten months later they complete gave in and then I started having a whole different level of treatment a lot, lot quicker. So I was trying to fight two different battles. One I was trying to run a company and learn something completely new and that was that I now had staff instead of being a consultant. And secondly I was trying to get fixed on a physical level and I was taking all this medication which was then just blurring everything and making it even harder. So then I had to take the decision to stop taking the medication regardless of the pain so that I could think a lot clearer. But that turned out to be a really bad idea.

Kevin: I was going to say that doesn’t sound like the most painless experience that.

Chris: The whole thing was not good. I went through massive bouts of depression. I found the whole thing very, very difficult to deal with to be honest and the business nearly crashed around my ears within a few years because of it.

Kevin: And it was just then because you could really feel the true pain that you were in was it?

Chris: Yeah not just about that I was just so focussed on so many different things and trying to prioritise the right thing was almost impossible for me to do. In retrospect I should have just got out of that completely and just got focussed on getting myself fixed but then do you know what that probably isn’t the right thing for me because I really need that carrot and I really need the vehicle that is taking me towards the carrot. So Experta was my carrot, I have always created some sort of goal some sort of carrot.

Kevin: How are you managing to come to terms with the fact that you were never going to run again?

Chris: I didn’t think about it to be honest. I really didn’t think about it. It was someone had told me something and do you know what I just didn’t believe it. That was the best way of dealing with it just don’t believe them because I am not fixed yet. I will deal with that when I am fixed. I have got another step to go through first so let’s get to those steps before the point of worrying. I don’t worry about something unless someone tells me.

Kevin: And so you just rebuffed the elements that weren’t relevant to you at that point. You said everything nearly crashed around you, but nearly it didn’t how did you manage to save it all?

Chris: I became very aggressive, very aggressive. In the forces it was quite easy to become aggressive about something and really drive it and go hard and people all around you understood that. Well not in a business environment being really quite aggressive really doesn’t help actually. And it doesn’t matter what you are going through everyone has their own value sets people come to work to do what they need to do and then go home. Well they are not living the same life that you are so me being aggressive about trying to get not necessarily the business but me where I needed to be doesn’t really suit someone else and I had to go back on the medication without a doubt.

Kevin: Really.

Chris: I needed to calm down. I really needed to calm down. I really needed to get a little bit of focus and that wasn’t about the drugs I just needed to get rid of the pain so that I could focus a little better. And thankfully I met some different people and I thought well what was another way of doing this and so before I ended up going on the drugs I went hold on a sec I’ve forgotten about this sport thing why don’t I try a bit of that. I had gone through all these, I had had physio and god knows how many operations by now, covered in scars. There was still going through pain, I didn’t understand that and I found a fantastic, Zoe my girlfriend at the time was working for an osteopath and this guy did some very strange things with needles that no one should have to go through and at the same time I also met a guy in the gym who was a Russian core stability guy. He was very, very focussed and very unforgiving let’s say in terms of how you want to do things. And when I said I wanted to try to get my core stability stronger so that I could have a stronger back I believed that if I could just get stronger then maybe I could get rid of some of the pain. I could get a little more movement and maybe then I could gradually not need any medication anyway. So I didn’t start taking the medication at all I started focussing on right I really need to get fit again. So for a very long time my thinking was rather cloudy running the company was extremely difficult we did lose a lot of clients, we lost a lot of staff and I thought well if the business goes it goes. What I need to work on health before wealth. There is no point of me trying to drive this other thing because none of them benefited each other. The business was going to be benefited by me being healthy. Me being healthy would eventually benefit the business so the priority became fix me. When I did that the guys saw that and then they changed, some of the guys did leave and other people joined but then those people then saw that and then I started realising oh this isn’t about business it is about people and it wasn’t until that point that I really got it.

Kevin: Okay.

Chris: But how strange is that.

Kevin: Go on talk about this fundamental shift then. It wasn’t about the business itself.

Chris: I started getting fitter and people started to see me getting fitter. So then they started getting involved, they started, people started doing a bit of a run doing things themselves being concerned about where I was going. So when I was aggressive about it people were just hiding in the office and just cracking on with what they had to do. But once I was focussed myself on fixing myself people then cared more about where I was going. So when you help yourself other people want to help you as well. But bit of tough learning though.

Kevin: So tell me about how your life began to change from that point onwards.

Chris: Well the business started doing rather well, in fact it did extremely well and I really threw myself into it. I started getting fitter I ran the night 10K in London not either months later.

Kevin: Hold fire there you just ran a 10k on the back off someone who is never going to run again?

Chris: My goal on a daily basis from the physio was to walk 10m and to roll a ball up and down my back on the wall. You know these extremely small challenges that at the time were actually quite large challenges to me. But now when I think back they are incredibly small but they were difficult on a daily basis. The pain level was enormous and it is quite bizarre how much a small bit of pain will actually stop you doing something. But if you keep pushing it it will actually change, things do change.

Kevin: Is it hard to realise what small steps you are making at times because it feels frustratingly slow or?

Chris: Yeah it does but then you have got to focus on the bigger picture. What are you trying to obtain? What do you want? What are you after? And you have got to keep asking yourselves over and over again why am I doing this, what is my ultimate goal, what is my plan, how am I going to get there? Small steps little and often.

Kevin: And that keeps you motivated to keep going back and experiencing the pain.

Chris: That’s how I think every single day now about everything.

Kevin: And before you knew it you had done a 10k.

Chris: Yep.

Kevin: How did it feel?

Chris: It felt really good. I actually cried when I went over the finish line. It felt fantastic. I realised I had my sport back, I could do some physical activity which is incredibly important for mental clarity.

Kevin: So you have got your health back, you have got your business back and where did it go from there?

Chris: 39th birthday I get an email from a friend of mine who is in Afghanistan to basically wish me all the best for my birthday with I was with him enjoying himself in the sand as he liked to put it. And then literally two or three hours later I heard about the first woman was killed by an IED, an Improvised Explosive Device, which is a roadside bomb, and three reserve members of SS. So literally four people died and he let me know about it and very strangely some friends of mine who were with me their brother had got killed on a motorbike. So all of a sudden this was around me and had happened on my 39th birthday and I woke up the next day thinking I am earning this money and we are doing this and it is just not enough I need to do something else. So I put, I set a challenge and the challenge was that in nine weeks time I was going to run the Chicago marathon. And I was going to do it for charity. Absolutely went for it and I ran 3:58 and then I thought well this isn’t enough I need to do more and it raised quite a lot of money and guys in the office seemed to all get around it and really go for it and then they started entering 10ks so I thought something in to this it’s a brilliant idea.

Kevin: Again going back right back to the navy days the influence, the positive influence you had around you on your team.

Chris: Yeah not just in my guys at work my friends we were all doing stuff together. And what was a really positive influence was two of my friends Nick and Jo, brother and sister, they had lost their brother Tom and they challenged themselves to do triathlons and that was such a good driver for me to see that everything I had done in the past I could work with them and we could do more challenges together. And lots of people started to get involved in that whole process and it was fantastic how they had taken the loss of their brother and had thrown a challenge in to help them get over it. So the year afterwards the 65th anniversary of VE Day so I ran the London marathon again, I did that and I ran it in 3:50 or something and I did lots of other runs. And I thought well the only thing I could do is run it quicker and then a charity called ‘The Veterans Charity’ decided they were going to run from Taunton to France, it was a 65m run to Portsmouth to commemorate the 65th anniversary of VE Day which was literally the trip the gliders took in 1945. So I went and did it. And I ran for 12/13 hours and I ran 65 miles. I blew myself away I was absolutely shocked and the training I had to do as quite large and everyone seemed super impressed by this, by just running but they were a lot more interested in it. And people started to say well I have started running because of that it was a really good idea. And obviously at the same time we were.

Kevin: How was that beginning to impact on you?

Chris: It was a light bulb moment. It was fuelling my own little addiction, it was good for me I was loving it because I am a bit of an attention seeker quite clearly. But at the same time I was inspiring other people to get into something because then they could see just like, if we go back to the forces, when someone pushes themselves around them they start pushing themselves as well or setting themselves their own carrot. So people started saying oh I’ve entered the London Marathon because of you next year. Really that’s amazing why have you done that. Well if you can run 65 miles I can definitely do 26.

Kevin: So now everybody else is suddenly going beyond their previous expectations, their previous limitations and realising that they can achieve a lot more.

Chris: Absolutely and that’s when I said to them well why do you think that? Well you’re not an athlete but you have managed to do that and you have got a job and you still managed to fit all this in. So how do you do that? So I started to tell them how time management, better time management. Do you watch the television Jay? Yeah I love it? How many hours do you spend? I don’t know three/four hours a night. Why are you wasting it you only have one asset time use it wisely.

Kevin: How appreciative does it make you of your life when you are actually busier achieving all of this?

Chris: Enormously I am absolutely, I couldn’t be happier now. I’ve been considerably financially better well off in the past than I am now but I am now in a very happy place. My business is doing rather well but that isn’t the main driver. I absolutely love what I do and I am fully committed to that but that is something that will always be there. I believe that will always be there now it is nice and stable that’s what it does. And I think I found the formula that helps that. But at the same time there has to be something else there. People have to have something else. You can’t focus on just one thing all the time it is not good for you.

Kevin: And that is what I am going to ask you to talk about now we could carry on talking there is a list of achievements or accomplishments that you have made over the last two or three years 100m runs to ironman events I mean you name it and as you rightly say you are no athlete. You are not an athlete you are just someone who gets a kick out of these things and importantly is willing to put in the training for them in advance. But in terms of getting some more meaning back in your life this is what you have moved on to now you have found a way to package it up haven’t you. Found a way to make it more visual so that people can get involved.

Chris: I mentioned before I needed to solidify something, I needed to create something that I could then talk about. I just said to somebody why don’t you just get out and take a challenge and find out what you want to do. And then they went that’s a brilliant idea, take a challenge I really like that. Well we all need to take a challenge so when I did the 100m runs I created a website called takeachallenge. I was a little surprised by the responses that I got off line. And I started talking to people on social networking and via the website and just saying what I was doing next how I was training getting up to date and I just started getting more and more and more followers. More and more people joining on facebook, more and more people joining on twitter and people registering on the website for something that didn’t exist as far as I was concerned. The registration process was just there to see if people wanted to run with me let’s say. And it was an afterthought; it was something I added very quickly. And it just kept going people just kept doing it and they still are doing it to this day in their hundreds.

Kevin: Go on what sort of things were they saying to you?

Chris: Asking advice, how do I do this? How do I fit it in? Once again I was asking the same thing how much TV do you watch, that’s my first thing I like to ask. What bits can we quantify that we know you have to do and that is eat, sleep, work. How do you fit that in because I want to run. Someone would say I want to bike, I want to get fitter and I would work out well you need to sleep at these points, well I don’t normally sleep until 11:30 well why don’t we try you sleeping between 11 and 7 that’s what you should be doing. Or 10 and whatever time you need to go to work. And you need to eat at these points; you need to leave at these points. Os that has left you with about six there and if we add them up to about a week or a month or a year that ends up being these hundreds of hours. Well little and often in hundreds of hours you can achieve a hell of a lot. And I have just been doing that on line, just telling people about it.

Kevin: And what is takeachallenge doing now?

Chris: There are over 20,000 people on twitter, there are over 5,000 on facebook, there are 38,000 have registered on the website for something I had no idea what it was going to be. There is no special formula as to why these people have come to me, why they have started following but it is not about me anymore it is about takeachallenge and that is what they are looking for. They are looking for a challenge. People do really want to be healthier. People really do want to set themselves a challenge they just don’t always know how to do it plus they all want to talk together. Some people have already found challenges so I’ve been promoting the guys who do have a challenge who are unbelievably inspirational. The things I have done are nothing in comparison to some things other people have done. And when you read about them classic is Eddie Izzard, somebody like Eddie Izzard who has done what he’s done huge amount of people were motivated to donate to him and I am sure many other people got out and started walking and doing various different things because of it. And Simon who was discharged out of the army with post traumatic stress disorder is doing 100 marathons in 100 weeks. There’s one guy. Mark who ran 3,100 miles from one side of America to the other. And I could do these all day I literally have 6, 7, 800 stories of incredibly inspirational people who motivate others to get on and do that. So we have got these captains of inspiration that are on takeachallenge that people can read about get hugely inspired by them and eventually they will find events and challenges that they can do themselves and they can all talk amongst each other and learn from it. How great is that. And if I can turn that into something absolutely enormous I really will think I have given something back.

Kevin: It’s a wonderful stage of your life to be at.

Chris: Yeah I actually feel quite privileged to be in a position where I am at the moment. Right now where it is I wouldn’t say it is enough for me but if this is where it went this is absolutely incredibly inspirational. I get inspired to get up every day at 5 o’clock and run and continue to do more challenges because of the people on there.

Kevin: I was going to say it must make you feel as though you have now a much greater responsibility.

Chris: Yeah I hate saying that. But yeah there are a few times when I felt that I need to let go of it but I can’t now.

Kevin: As much as you say it actually it is not now about what you are achieving it is about these wonderful people they are getting drawn to you about what they are achieving but equally you are the catalyst behind this and you know that you have a responsibility to a much larger community.

Chris: Yeah I know it is quite scary isn’t it. You really do absolutely get behind these people. The stories you hear about people they might have only done a 5k but who cares. It doesn’t matter if it is 5k or 100k it is an incredible achievement when someone has managed to get themself off a sofa and some of them are doing chemotherapy and they have still done 5k. That is fantastic but then what they do little and often. Once they start one thing and then they say alright I’ve done this, this is brilliant. I say that’s brilliant what is your next challenge? Oh I don’t know what shall I do 10k? Shall I, can I do that? Of course you can do it you have just done 5k give yourself five weeks and you will be there in no time. Then you do a half marathon book one of those in as well. And other people are getting involved and all talking to each other. Because it is about letting people know that they can achieve anything. Nothing is impossible, little and often. Choose a carrot, chose a goal, chose a challenge and achieve it in very small steps and you will eventually get there.

Kevin: And I wonder how much just out of interest with the size that takeachallenge already is, I wonder how much people even know anything about your personal story. I bet most of them don’t. I bet most of them don’t know you were hit by a car.

Chris: I have never told this story in its entirety ever. I have said more now than I think I have ever said.

Kevin: A lot of people would have come into contact with you post all of what you have gone through in your life. It is going to be very interesting when they hear this story to understand the person who is behind all of this and where the motivations came from.

Chris: Actually quite scary now I am thinking about it.

Kevin: This is what I find very interesting and as you say your story is actually now almost in your opinion the least relevant story out of all the stories you are getting.

Chris: Ah god yeah without a doubt.

Kevin: But yet without your story this wouldn’t be here.

Chris: I guess no you are right no.

Kevin: You said earlier without all of these wonderful life experiences you wouldn’t be who you are today but again there wouldn’t be all of this around you that you have today because this is what it has driven you to achieve.

Chris: Yeah without a doubt.

Kevin: And this is where to use my expression this is where you really are maximising your potential. You have touched on loads of things that have really influenced you and that you use within your make up every single day to drive you forward and make sure that you are making the most of every single day. Let’s just close off leave them with one thing even if it is repeating one of the things you have already said. I want to leave everybody here with their starting point.

Chris: Everyone has one asset. One asset it doesn’t matter how much money you have got, it doesn’t matter what person you are, where you were born, what you do, we all have one asset time. Use it wisely and you can achieve a lot.

Kevin: Chris thank you very much for your time today.

Chris: No thank you.


Kevin: Chris Brisley thank you very much for giving us such a thorough and honest account of the key events which have shaped the direction of your life. I think Chris has left us under no uncertain terms that in his opinion time is the most important commodity that we all posses. And it is the use of time that plays a key role in our ability to and the speed at which we achieve our goals. I have put several links on the webpage for you to learn more about Chris and takeachallenge as well as links to connect to his various groups on twitter including the notorious 6am club. Chris thanks again for coming on the podcast and sharing your story and we look forward to staying in touch with you and takeachallenge.

Many thanks as always to the Jenrick Recruitment Group for their amazing support and please remember that if you are considering a career change please visit the webpage for this episode for links through to the Jenrick website. No podcast would be complete without some music to finish on so here’s ‘On face percentage’ from Xerxes. Goodbye and we will be back soon.


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!