Wednesday 25 April 2018

‘I used to plan my retirement on the bus on the way to some of the biggest match days of my career’ – Paul O’Connell

Paul O'Connell on the main stage at Pendulum Summit 2018
Paul O'Connell on the main stage at Pendulum Summit 2018
Ellie Donnelly

Ellie Donnelly

“I used to plan my retirement on the bus on the way to some of the biggest match days of my career, and I knew this was wrong,” rugby legend Paul O’Connell told a packed audience of business leaders at the Pendulum Summit.

However O’Connell went on to say that “towards the end of my career I figured out a way to really enjoy the build-up to a game.”

In a revealing talk, Ireland’s third most capped rugby player of all time said that he doesn’t really miss the game,

“What I miss is the sense of purpose that you have 24 hours a day, the sense of being on a mission.”

“Towards the end [of my career] I would leave my phone downstairs to maximise my sleep, next day if I saw players had been messaging after I had went to bed I would think I was 1-0 up on them.”

“The longer I sept the fitter I was, the more recovered I was.”

His advice to the hundreds of business leaders at the Pendulum Summit was to put first things first, “the high leverage parts of your job that will make the big difference. For me it’s about the analysis; what are the big things you need to do? And what do you have to do it get there?”

“On a Sunday I would have a 15 minute meeting with myself and write out a plan of my week ahead.

Paul O'Connell on the main stage at Pendulum Summit 2018
Paul O'Connell on the main stage at Pendulum Summit 2018

"This kept me in focus. My week now hinged on the process rather than the big game, which made it easier for me to deal with the Friday night game nerves.”

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In addition, O’Connell gave the captivated audience some advice that he received from Joe Schmidt, “win the moment in front of your face,” or as O’Connell put it “mindfulness for dumb rugby players.”

“You are going to make mistakes but you have to just go and win the next moment. By playing moment by moment it stops distractions.”

“In my 30s I could only train 50pc of what I used to, I had to realise that I had to win tiny battle after tiny battle, and win the moment in front of my face, if I got out of bed and my body was in bits I just did the best I could, just win the situation that you are in.”

The Munster, Ireland, and Lions legend went on to say that he “always had little goals whenever I played.”

O’Connell then started making notes about his training, from this he began to notice more about his own numbers. With this information he was able to change his performance overnight “by just working a little bit harder on certain things”.

O’Connell concluded by advising the business leaders to “have a good plan about where you are going and how to get there, and then it becomes easier to say no to other things.”

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