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Louise Brooke-Smith: It's the name of the game

Record Breakers was a fabulous TV programme when I was growing up, writes Louise Brooke-Smith. The sheer infectious energy that Roy Castle brought to millions of viewers from the early 1970s up to his death in the mid-1990s was second to none.

He shone even more brightly when balanced by the calmer and more serious McWhirter twins. Everyone knew they were the real brains behind the Guinness World Record brand and even after Norris was left twinless when Ross died in an IRA attack, the programme and the brand continued in various forms until the early 2000.

The dedication and motivation highlighted on a weekly basis were awe-inspiring. From the mundane domino-toppling to leaps from airplanes, from the ‘nearly did it’ to those who ‘smashed it’, the admiration wasn’t only for those who took the records, but also for those who tried.

Why do some people try and others just stand by? What makes an individual aim for the medal? Is it ego? Is it self-belief? Is it trying to prove something to themselves or others? And once you decide to do something, what keeps you motivated when the inevitable knock-backs come?

If you are an athlete, what keeps you going through all those early training sessions and how do you bounce back after twisting an ankle a month before the Olympics?

And it’s not just the spotlight glory events. What about those who join a company as a trainee and eventually become the CEO? It’s the everyday things that can then turn into the extraordinary.

I remember watching the biopic of Margaret Thatcher and, while not aligning with her political ideology in any way, I was struck by her ability to keep applying to misogynistic selection panels across the country until one took her on and she eventually had her foot on the Westminster steps.

We might be emerging from Lockdown#2 and facing Christmas with some trepidation that Boris will shout ‘“only joking – you’ve got to stay home until the New Year”, but how do we collectively or personally keep our peckers up? Will the thought of turkey and all the trimmings be sufficient to motivate each other regardless of the dark nights, rubbish weather, desolate town centres and lack of all that flirting at the office party? Just asking for a friend on that last one...

“What keeps you motivated when the inevitable knock-backs come?” 

Well of course we are now living in the brave new IT world. From virtual parties to online shopping, we are surviving and the odd delivery from Amazon or FedEx can definitely lift the spirits when we are glued to the screen all day. Doesn’t matter if it’s a new screwdriver that’s taken weeks to arrive via a slow boat from China or the weekly shop – it can still feel like a surprise present and gives me, at least, a bit of a  motivational buzz, especially when you forgot you’ve ordered it.

The art is to turn that short injection of motivation into something effective – perhaps a catalyst to finishing that planning report, or making that call to the tricky developer that you’ve been putting off. Perhaps a short burst of motivation can then turn into a run of dedication and instead of seeing the rest of December and January as a long tunnel of dark fog, it turns into a short bridge to a spring full of new shoots, new job opportunities and a new year of Covid-19 inoculations for all – hoorah.

Clearly some people have inbuilt motivation. But for the rest of us, we need some help to find it. If we are hunkering down WFH or succumbing to a duvet day, it could be a delivery of potatoes from ASDA or a replacement handle for the toilet could spark us up again – or just getting a smile from those on a Zoom or Team call. Let’s allow the Roy Castle gene to infect us mere mortals with something more uplifting than the coronavirus. Happy Christmas everyone and hopefully motivation will spring up in the most surprising places.   

Dr Louise Brooke-Smith is a development and strategic planning consultant and a built environment non-executive director

Illustration l Zara Picken


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