Record-breaking athlete John McAvoy was born into a criminal environment and served 10 years for armed robbery in high security prisons, alongside inmates like notorious Islamic extremist Abu Hamza, before turning his life around with sport. Here, he shares his top tips to help people overcome the challenges they’re facing today.
Back in the early 2000s, my life was headed in a completely different direction. I’d grown up in the world of criminals and I was on the same path: I bought my first gun at the age of 16 and it wasn’t long after that before I was committing armed robberies. By my early twenties, I was already one of the UK’s most wanted men.
The loss of my best friend while I was spending a year in solitary confinement changed everything for me. I decided to channel all of my energy into fitness and haven’t looked back since. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge us all, having the right mindset is crucial. The abilities to pivot, to think innovatively and to become more resilient can help get us through the difficult months ahead. It can seem scary to transform your mindset but this is how you can thrive in the face of today’s adversities.
1. Don’t be scared to fail
When faced with the daunting prospects of this pandemic, it can be easy to give up and to persuade ourselves out of trying new things. Don’t let yourself think this way. Transformation can be intimidating, yes. But pursuing change, even when it’s challenging, can make all the difference.
2. Dream big and be bold
When I decided to use sport to change my life, lots of people doubted me. I had a clear objective, though, and believed there were no limits. To overcome adversity, you need confidence, even if you have no idea if you will sink or swim. Set goals that will shock people and commit to them.
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3. Do what you can with what you have
It’s all about changing your perception. When I was in prison, there was just one place I could visit; the inmate gym. Instead of a limitation, I saw this as an opportunity. Even if what you have is small, use it to maximum effect and you’ll see the results.
4. Be disciplined
The records I achieved while still in prison and the impact that my new pursuit of fitness had on my whole outlook on life showed me that you don’t often need a huge amount of resources to make a change. Discipline, focus, and willingness to stay the distance is what matters.
5. Help others grow
Don’t forget about the positive impact you can have for others. When I was in prison, one of the prison officers was instrumental in nurturing my new focus on sport. He supported my rowing early on and showed me that I was actually performing at international gold medal level. With his help, my rowing gained attention around the world. Think about who you can inspire. You might be their answer to overcoming adversity.
John McAvoy recently participated in a virtual summit, sharing his tips for how businesses can succeed in 2021 despite the challenges of the pandemic. Held by tech unicorn SafetyCulture, the summit – ‘From Surviving to Thriving’ – took place on Wednesday 18th November and featured John and other high-profile speakers, including Captain “Sully” Sullenberger and renowned activist Erin Brockovich. If you weren’t able to join the summit, all content is now available for viewing on-demand for the next two weeks. Just log into the safetyculture.live portal to access the recordings: https://safetyculture.com/summit-2020/.